So I did a bit of research into how I can keep my hotmail and gmail accounts and have a desktop application that can access both, plus also access my contacts from Outlook (which I have to keep for my PocketPC synchronisation)...
I have been vaguely interested in Thunderbird for some time now for in case I ever want another desktop email client, so today I looked into whether this supports hotmail and gmail and lo! It was so! (And I already knew it supported Plaxo which is what I use to synch my contacts and calendars).
So I downloaded and installed and look! It asked me if I wanted it to get information from Outlook Express and Outlook - which I most emphatically do not - so I'm happy already! Then it offers to set up an account (one of its offerings is gmail! - but POP3 access where I want IMAP...so no), which I ended up cancelling out of.
There are plug-ins of course, like there are for my wonderful Firefox. These include Webmail, and then another addition to this for Hotmail. Instructions for setting up IMAP with gMail are available at google....and yay! It works.
Ooooh look! Thunderbird as tagging! And it brought across all the gmail ones, of course.
Now to see if I can get my Hotmail to work as well...I follow the instructions and more yay! Then I subscribe to all my folders at my hotmail account so I can see the emails in there (and promptly opened the biggest one...oh well!) and I can see them here and at hotmail. Bliss.
Now the final link: Plaxo for my contacts. Installed, clicked the button on the toolbar (after a restart) and I now have my Outlook contacts in Thunderbird.
I have everything I want! And of course the best part of all: it's all free (well....except for Outlook)!
Here's a pretty picture:
And now I'm going to have a look at some more extensions/add-ons that might be of interest.