Over the last several weeks Microsoft has been quietly launching its new email service, outlook.com. They’ve stated that it’s a newly built from the ground up “Modern” email service. Many current users of both Hotmail and live have argued that Microsoft has in fact re-tooled certain aspects of its existing services, while Microsoft states any similarities are due to the fact that not all aspects of the new system have been upgraded.
Code and technical issues aside Microsoft is definitely on to something here. Being one of the first users of Gmail, I can tell you that as it has evolved, Google’s refinements have not kept its format clean and in many ways have made it more difficult to use. I know of few that are happy with the changes Google has made to its inbox. Google does continue to have the best spam catcher in the business and an incredible array of free services that will keep many folks around for years to come. I digress.
The new outlook.com on the other hand is extremely clean, uncluttered, and aesthetically very pleasant to look at. A single drop down menu allows access to mail, contacts, calendar, and of course your skydrive. (Clicking on the skydrive button will take you to one of those yet to be updated pages.) Social media aficionados will be extremely pleased with the ability to integrate these contacts into their address book. Once you choose to view a contact, all of their information is centered on the screen and is presented in a font size that just about anyone will be able to read. If you’ve integrated that persons Facebook page you can reach it with one click of a button located underneath the person’s name and/or photograph.
You will also notice photographs and file attachments appear at the top of messages, and attachments are in bold. If it’s a Microsoft Office related document you can open the attachment right in the message. Also, you can pretty much stop worrying about attachment size limits. You can send files as large as 300 megabytes, each!
Ads you say? Yes, there are ads. After all as great as the new outlook is, it’s still free. The good news is the ads are somewhat inconspicuously placed down the right side of the window, and you do at least have the ability to tailor the ads to things you’re interested in. If you open a message from someone in your address book the panel disappears and becomes a message box that allows you to post to a friend’s facebook page or view tweets without missing a beat. Very cool.
Microsoft has made no bones about going after Gmail customers. Sure, they may have some luck, but for now my outlook.com account will have to serve as nothing more than a secondary email account. It is most certainly worthy of that.
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