For those of you who caught the Internet wave in the mid-90s, it is highly possible that one of your first email addresses was created with Hotmail. Microsoft launched its email service “Hotmail” in the year 1996 which till date stands as one of the best email services to be provided on the internet. According to comScore’s recent reports, Hotmail currently has nearly 325 million users as against Yahoo with 298 million and Gmail at 289 million.
Having undergone many changes over the years, Microsoft has finally decided to take a big step in moving Hotmail under the Outlook wing. Hotmail users retain their ids but would manage their emails under Outlook.com. Microsoft hopes to make the full switch for all users by the end of this summer.
So what’s new?
Email Ads Users now can view the ads on the right panel by their emails and have the option to hide them. Ads gain relevance based on personal data and type of messages clicked. But wait, the ads are shown only for newsletters and emails from other business organizations like insurance companies, movie rental subscription services, banks etc. Ads are not displayed on personal emails. Instead, users view the senders personal updates on the side pane provided the email is integrated with social networks. It’s less invading and Microsoft has definitely stepped up the bar on this one.
Social Integration and Skype Users can now integrate their Twitter and Facebook accounts that not only allows you to check updates/tweets but also retweet or like/comment from your Outlook page. Another nice add on is the Skype integration that will allow users to start Skype conversations with anyone directly from their Outlook email. With Microsoft’s latest acquisition of Yammer (the professional social networking site), a similar integration for Yammer in Outlook may also be available soon. This is a very intelligent and commendable move because now users can choose to interact with their friends on facebook/twitter or even take the next step in calling them on Skype.
User Interface The new interface would have to be a hit or miss with users. While some may love the less cluttered minimalistic design and “email-only” approach of the new Outlook, many users have complained about lighter text used on a white background disturbing and weird panel colors.
How does the new Outlook compare to others? Using Outlook (earlier Hotmail) again after many years is quite a refreshing change from Google’s boring layout and don’t even get me started on Yahoo. The new Outlook looks very user-friendly and far superior to Gmail and Yahoo in many ways. However, change is not something users look forward to and getting users to switch back to Outlook may be a huge deal as is forcing the integration on Hotmail users.