Its finally happened. After years of floundering, Microsoft has finally pulled the plug on Hotmail and introduced a preview version of Outlook.com, a new email service which promises users a cleaner user interface, very much like Google’s Gmail. And yes it comes with thecompulsory social media integration to services such as Facebook and Twitter.
Is Microsoft trying to compete with Gmail? Totally. In the official Outlook blogpost, Chris Jones wrote,
Webmail was first introduced with HoTMaiL in 1996. Back then, it was novel to have a personal email address you could keep for life – one that was totally independent from your business or internet service provider. Eight years later, Google introduced Gmail, which included 1 GB of storage and inbox search. And while Gmail and other webmail services like Hotmail have added some features since then, not much has fundamentally changed in webmail over the last 8 years – though yesterday’s frustrations about the small size of inboxes are now things of the past.
Clearly Gmail with extra space, chat and now Hangouts, edged Microsoft’s prized Hotmail and it seems the software giant wants to change that.
Microsoft promises users that it won’t scan their content or sell it to advertisers. This again is a clear reference to Gmail which matches key search words in user emails to show ads.
So what are the key features of Outlook.com?
• Cloud sync: Outlook is cloud friendly and promises that all your email will be available wherever you are. Its linked to your calendar as well. The good thing is that it comes with SkyDrive, so for users sending photos and documents, size is no longer a problem. SkyDrive will ensure that attachment worries are a thing of the past.
• New interface: Microsoft has gone for a cleaner interface. It looks suspiciously similar to Gmail but a change nonetheless. It also promises user that 30 percent more messages will be visible in your Inbox than other services. Yes its one long scroll down in Outlook.com
• Social networks: Outlook.com is touted as the first email service connected to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google, and soon, Skype. Recent status updates,Tweets, the ability to chat and video calls are all promised.
• Some apps: Microsoft is also offering free Office Web Apps such as Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote which means you can edit the doc from your inbox.
Will it be enough to trump Gmail? That remains to be seen.