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Microsoft to Gmail users: Switch to Outlook.com with our new import tool!

Microsoft remembers all too well how millions of its Hotmail users dumped the webmail service for Google’s Gmail alternative – which offered more features and greater storage space – in the years following its 2004 launch.

Earlier this year the computer giant relaunched Hotmail as Outlook.com, and now it wants its old users back.

While it’s always been possible for Gmail users to import their messages to Outlook.com, the company on Wednesday announced it’s started rolling out a new tool to simplify the process in the hope that it’ll tempt more Gmail account holders to wave bye bye to Google’s service.

Microsoft’s Naoto Sunagawa explained in a blog post that switching accounts by way of a few simple steps will allow you to “import your Gmail emails into your Outlook.com inbox and, because you’ve connected both accounts, your Google contacts will automatically appear in Outlook.com.”

He adds, “The structure of your inbox, including read/unread status of your emails, will be preserved. The new tool will even set up your Gmail address as a ‘send-only’ account so you can continue to send email from your @gmail.com address, right from Outlook.com, if you still want to.”

Sunagawa goes on to highlight a recent Ipsos survey which found that almost 25 percent of Internet users would switch email providers if it was easier to do so. If a good proportion of that figure comprises non-Outlook.com users, Microsoft may be about to see an influx of new users.

If you’re interested in leaving Gmail behind and giving Outlook.com a go, head over to here for precise instructions.

It goes back a few years

Hotmail was, for most people, the webmail service of choice when it launched way back in 1996. A year later, Microsoft bought the service, and as Internet use rose, so too did Hotmail’s user base.

Years later, in 2004, along came Google with its Gmail offering which, once it came out of its invite-only status, grew rapidly in popularity, with many dumping Hotmail for Gmail’s more feature-rich experience and extra storage space.

With Hotmail looking stale and just plain uncool, Microsoft earlier this year finally got around to visiting it in the small hours and sending it off to the great server in the sky. In its place came Outlook.com, and like it or not, all existing Hotmail users had their accounts transferred to the new service in May.

Now that a fair bit of time has passed and Microsoft has had a chance to refine its Web-based email offering, the company evidently feels confident enough to try to win back some of those former Hotmail users, though we’ll just have to wait and see precisely how many Gmail account holders make use of its new tool.