Microsoft’s “New” Web Based email: Outlook.com

There’s a new kid on the block and its name is Outlook.com.  Outlook.com is Microsoft’s new web-based email service that’s replacing Hotmail.  It claims a new user interface with clean lines and minimalistic feel.  Originally name Newmail, it dropped the simple sounding codename when Outlook.com was unveiled to the public.  Microsoft hopes to grab the attention of serious web-mail visitors lost to Google’s Gmail.  Microsoft is still playing catch-up to Google on many fronts, first its search engine and now its email.  Will it be enough to revive Microsoft’s online presence?   Only time will tell.

Outlook along with Outlook Express was once the email client packaged with Windows XP.  Eventually the product was dropped with the coming of Windows Vista.  Outlook was once considered a strong business oriented email application that could handle most if not all of the average businesses’ needs.  Since the 90’s the rise of Google and Gmail have put a wrinkle into the side of Microsoft’s email following.   Google’s online dominance and Gmail’s usability have made it the “go to” service for most business focused users, as well as for the average consumer.  Gmail is simply more compatible in more places.  Third party developers such as Mozilla have made full featured interfaces like Thunderbird that link with Gmail.  Thunderbird is a free program that runs on your desktop or laptop.  When installed it fully integrates with Gmail, allowing users to access multiple Gmail accounts very easily.  All of Gmail’s folders and functions are totally accessible when configured but not with Hotmail.com or Live.com.  This has been tested and tried but Hotmail doesn’t seem to want to work nicely with Thunderbird.  For the average user, ease of use and compatibility are very important.

Microsoft boasts that Outlook.com is more modern than Gmail.  They say that Outlook.com is not 8 years old like Gmail and is more compatible with social media.  They have been bragging about Outlook’s better functionality, like how it handles attachments and files.  They claim Gmail is older and more “traditional” in its file usage.  Microsoft says it will also integrate with Skype which will make some users very happy.  Of course Outlook will also be available across many devices such as mobile and tablets.  It will also be multi-platform for use with IE, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, etc.

Advertisements will however be visible, we can’t escape it.  The right side pane of the 3-column default profile will show advertisements regularly.  Microsoft has made it specifically clear that your emails will NOT be scanned to provide related advertisements, which is a refreshing gesture.  This may capture the minds of some ad-reluctant people.

Overall the new Outlook.com is very appealing with crispness and minimal clutter.  It has a modern look and great functionality making it a very smart choice for almost anybody.  Will Outlook revolutionize the industry? No.  It can however be a great email service with no cost and robust usability.  We haven’t had a new major email client in recent years, if someone’s going to build one it’s going to be Microsoft or Google.  The online battle continues and we’ll be waiting for Google’s response.  In the meanwhile enjoy Microsoft’s new Outlook.com.