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REDMOND, Wash. (


) --


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hotmail service was down earlier on Tuesday, but the software giant says that it is now back to normal.

The problem was related to Windows Live ID, which is deployed to log users into Hotmail and instant messaging, according to Microsoft. Hotmail, which competes with


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Gmail, is the tech bellwether's hosted email service.

"This morning, around 9:30 a.m. PST, the Windows Live ID sign-in service experienced a partial outage that caused some customers to not be able to sign into services using Windows Live ID for approximately one hour," explained a Microsoft spokesman in an email to


. "The service is now restored to normal. Microsoft apologizes for any inconvenience this has caused customers."

It is not yet clear how many users were impacted when hotmail went down, and it didn't take long for Websites like Twitter to fill up with comments about the problems.

"We had an issue with the Windows Live ID service between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. PST this morning," wrote Arthur de Haan, a member of Microsoft's Windows Live team, in a blog posting on Tuesday afternoon. "Due to the failure of one server, Windows Live ID logins were failing for some customers, and this increased the load on our remaining servers."

De Haan, who said that Microsoft saw the Twitter feeds about the problems, identified the cause of the outage and fixed it in less than an hour. "But it took a while to resolve the logjam that had built up in the meantime, and to redistribute the load to normal levels," he added.

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Microsoft's outage nonetheless comes at a time when companies like


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are pushing

cloud services as a way for customers to avoid the upfront costs of hardware and software


Microsoft shares rose 4 cents, or 0.14%, to $27.97 in extended trading.

-- Reported by James Rogers in New York

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