Outlook.com is here
Microsoft has unveiled a major redesign of Outlook aimed at personal users - the first step in phasing out its Hotmail brand.
Yesterday, the company launched a preview of its new consumer-focused webmail service, Outlook.com. The project aims to build on Outlook's success as the dominant desktop application for businesses and signals the beginning of the end for Hotmail, which offered the first webmail accounts when it launched in 1996.
Microsoft versus Google
Since then, Google has become the dominant player in webmail thanks to Gmail, although Microsoft is hoping Outlook.com's unique selling points will help it to regain the initiative. In an official post for the Outlook Blog, Microsoft's Chris Jones explained that there is space for 30 per cent more messages 'than the webmail most people are used to'. This is because there are no search boxes or display ads - an apparent dig at Google's focus on search and advertising. Furthermore, he promised that Outlook.com would not scan emails and sell on the information to advertisers, or use it to deliver personalised ads, which is one of the most contentious aspects of Gmail.
Outlook.com email addresses can now be created by all new and existing users of Microsoft's Hotmail, MSN and Live services. Users can also choose to continue with their existing email addresses while still taking advantage of the streamlined Outlook.com redesign by selecting 'upgrade' in the options menu. Alternatively, people who currently prefer Gmail are being invited to try Outlook.com by logging into their existing Microsoft account or setting up one from scratch.
Mr Jones concluded: "A lot has changed in the last eight years [since Gmail launched], and we think it's time for a fresh look at email - modern, connected, smart, powerful, and in control. So try out the preview at Outlook.com. We think you'll like what you see."
Tom Glass, creative director at theEword, said: "The new Outlook.com looks good and I like the way the design is less cluttered than before, which leaves more room for messages. The key question is whether or not the majority of Gmail users are disaffected enough to switch. I suspect Microsoft will need to put in a lot of work to win people round."