Microsoft is in the process of killing-off its much maligned Hotmail web-based email and replacing it with Outlook.com. Outlook is the name of Microsoft’s email application that’spart of the Microsoft Office suite which is heavily used in large enterprises.
The move is part of the company’s ongoing transition from a mostly desktop software company to a cloud-based services company. At its recent Office 2013 product introduction, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer repeatedly referred the upcoming version of Microsoft Office as a “service” as much as a software application.
Outlook.com will compete head-on with Google’s Gmail and, like Gmail will have contextual ads. But unlike Gmail that ads will be based on what’s contained it the subject line, not the text of the messages themselves.
For the time being Outlook and Hotmail will co-exist but Microsoft reportedly plans to eventually replace Hotmail. For now, Hotmail users can sign-in at Outlook.com or users can set up a new Outlook account.
I tested Outlook.com on a desktop Windows PC and a Macbook Air and, on both devices, what I saw was a clean modern interface that was free of clutter and easy to navigate. The service, of course, will also be available on smartphones and tablets. Like the most recent version of Hotmail, Outlook.com always you to create “Quick Views” that automaticaly sort mail into categories. Email with attached documents, for example, go into the Document quick view while mail with pictures go into the Photos view.
As you mouse over an email messages you’ll see little icons to mark the messages as read, delete it or, my favorite, keep the message at the top of your inbox. You can use that last command on multiple messages to make sure pay attention to them when you next log-in.
Just as Google has integrated Gmail with Google +, Microsoft is integrating Outlook.com with Facebook (Microsoft has a minority stake in Facebook). You can use it for live chats with your Facebook friends. The company said there will also be links to Twitter, Linkedin, Google and Skype.