Mention Outlook, and people usually think about the e-mail client that's bundled with Microsoft Office. However, it seems that Microsoft is aiming to redesign Outlook by setting up a new, web-based e-mail service that will take on the likes of Gmail and could phase out Hotmail in the process.
A post on the official Microsoft Outlook Blog states, “We’re introducing a preview of Outlook.com. We realized that we needed to take a bold step, break from the past and build you a brand new service from the ground up. You already know Outlook via the Outlook desktop application – for PCs and Macs – as the world's most popular application for reading e-mail, managing a calendar, and connecting to people. And you may have used the Outlook Web App connected to Exchange Server in your organization. Now, in addition to a desktop application and a service for businesses, we're offering Outlook as a personal email service – Outlook.com.”
Inbox gets cleaned up
Since this e-mail service is built from the ground up, there are several new features that will simplify the user experience without the banners and advertisements that have become quite annoying on Hotmail. Outlook.com aims to clean up the inbox interface and integrate the e-mail client with a range of social networking features.
Commenting on the re-designed inbox, Microsoft states, “Today's inbox is about more than just exchanging mail with the people you know; 50% of the e-mail in a typical inbox is newsletters and another 20% is social network updates. This is part of the reason our inboxes are overloaded and we often feel it's a chore to “do e-mail”. Outlook.com automatically sorts your messages from contacts, newsletters, shipping updates, and social updates, and with our Sweep features you can move, delete and set up powerful rules in a few, simple clicks so you can more quickly get to the e-mail you really want.”
Apart from this, Outlook.com also comes equipped with free Office Web Apps such as Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote. With these features on board, users can view and edit attachments without having to leave their inbox. Outlook.com also comes with SkyDrive.
On the social networking front, the service connects with various sites such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. If a person in one’s contact list updates their profile picture or information, the updated information gets automatically synced with a user’s contact list. Outlook.com also filters all social networking emails into a separate folder, which helps in maintaining a clean user experience. One can also chat with their Facebook contacts from within the e-mail service itself. Microsoft states, “We saw an opportunity to make e-mail better by using your connections on social networks to enrich your e-mail experience. And so, with the Outlook.com preview, we are giving you the first e-mail service that is connected to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google, and soon, Skype, to bring relevant context and communications to your e-mail.”
Click here to get started with Microsoft Outlook.com. A user can also use their existing Microsoft user ID by heading over to Hotmail and clicking the upgrade feature. Microsoft goes on to state, “Once you're using Outlook.com, you can also set it up on your phone (Windows Phone, iPhone, Android, Blackberry, or other phone), tablet (Windows 8, iPad, and Android), in the new Outlook 2013 Preview, or in other mail apps you might use. And because Outlook.com supports Exchange ActiveSync, you can set it up just like you would your Exchange or Hotmail account.” For more information on the set up process, click here.