I have been doing this with the free accounts for a while. Windows Live Mail and the Outlook Connector do it and have done it for a long time. I wrote up a Guide in the Wiki about this some time last year.
While i do agree that it is about time, there were ways to get around it. It is about time they unlocked this feature. I remember back when it used to be free...then they locked it down. Then unlocked it with certain software...
They just cant make up their mind. Of course i only use Hotmail or Live Emails for specific things. Everything else is GMail.
Note what the article says regarding availability in your area:
POP3 access is now available to Hotmail users in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, France, Japan, Spain, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands. Microsoft plans to roll out POP3 access to more parts of the world later this year.