This week Microsoft revealed that it is dropping its established free email service Hotmail for Outlook email, to provide better Windows and Office integration, connection with social media services, and other features.
Hotmail was acquired by Microsoft in 1996, and since then it has enjoyed success as a free online email service, though Microsoft is now phasing out this client in favour of the new brand Outlook (available to try as a preview at Outlook.com) bringing new features that many state have been a long time coming.
This re-branding effort is nothing new. Microsoft were originally planning to phase out the service with the introduction of Windows Live Mail in 2006, but the confusion over what this new service provided and the want of developers to stick with the already popular Hotmail name caused Microsoft to change its name to Windows Live Hotmail instead.
But it appears now that there is enough incentive, and enough applicable updates, for a complete rebranding to make sense for Microsoft. Introduced at the start of this month, the service managed to gather 1 million accounts in only 6 hours. Much of this figure will no doubt be existing Hotmail users who can simply click a button on their email page to upgrade to Outlook.
This rebranding effort is happening for two reasons; to make Microsoft’s free email service more competitive with Google’s Hotmail, which is currently the fastest growing email service with 31% of the market share, and to align their email service with the office email brand. Hotmail is still the largest free email service in the world with roughly 324 million users, but Gmail’s rapid rise to dominance means that this situation might change very soon, meaning there has never been a more useful time to rebrand.
Outlook’s New Features
There are many new features with Outlook, with connectivity and networking features now making Microsoft a true contender with Gmail. Outlook will allow the user to connect with social media and networking services such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and even Google+, and also Microsoft’s cloud data storage service Skydrive. It is said that Skype video chat will also be available.
Outlook also provides inbox organisation tools that help to separate daily subscription and social media updates into separate folders, threaded messages and office 365 online document integration.
Visually, the new Outlook design is clean and simple with a Metro style, not completely dissimilar to Gmail, with inconspicuous advertisements that will apparently not be the ‘creepy ones’ that Google uses based on personal user search history.
What do These New Features Mean?
These new features are good news for computer users who are using the power of networking to increase their professional visibility, with Microsoft finally providing a free centralised email hub to conduct all networking activities and social media networking. Services such as LinkedIn and Google+ are becoming important for professional networking, finding out more about employers and employers, getting the word out and building up your own professional list of contacts, and Outlook’s compatibility will certainly help to facilitate this.