Microsoft owned email service provider Hotmail has enabled Email vis SMS for its users, and it isn’t just about email alerts – users can also reply to emails on SMS. Despite there being 147 million data capable connections in India, the number of mobile Internet users is a small fraction of that: according to Hotmail estimates, only 18 million. So SMS, for now, appears to be an important component of Hotmail’s initiatives.

MediaNama readers might remember that the yet-to-be-launched version of Hotmail intends to become a platform for aggregating 35 key social network updates, including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Once the new version rolls out, Hotmail will aggregate all of these, and deliver updates to users via SMS. For Microsoft, this is an important opportunity to connect and validate email addresses with mobile numbers.

It’s worth noting that the service is free in India, whereas in Australia, email SMS alerts from nineMSN are charged.

Competition: BlacMail

Of course, users need to have a working Hotmail/Live ID, or create one online or on mobile to enable the service, and that is a drawback. And since this isn’t application based, it lacks the ability to show an entire email in a single message format. An application that takes care of that issue, is BlacMail, which was launched earlier with BSNL.

BlacMail is a push email application that uses SMS for updates at the back-end, and instead of users getting multiple emails in separate messages, combines them for easy viewing. What’s important, and what also works for BlacMail, is that it is service provider agnostic – it incorporates Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Hotmail and corporate accounts, alongwith updates from Facebook, Twitter, Orkut, and job sites like Monster, Naukri and TimesJobs. The drawback, though, is that it is application based.

So which one would I go for? Neither.

Mobile VAS company ValueFirst also plans to launch its Email-to-SMS product.