Web

Bye bye Hotmail: Outlook.com leaves preview, gathers 60 million users in six months

outlookMicrosoft announced Monday its new web-based email service, Outlook.com, is now out of preview mode and open to all.

“Today is a major milestone in our mission to provide people everywhere with the world’s best email experience,” David Law, Outlook.com’s director of product management, wrote in a blog post.

Besides webmail, Outlook.com also offers social networking functionality, cloud storage in the form of its SkyDrive facility, and Office Web Apps – a web-based version of its Office software. Similar in many ways to Gmail with its plethora of related web-based services, Microsoft will be doing what it can to attract the attention of users of Google’s service.

Indeed, Law added that the Redmond-based company is gearing up for the launch of a global marketing campaign highlighting Outlook.com, which has already racked up 60 million users in seven months.

Outlook.com’s uncluttered design, familiar to users of Windows 8, is a vast improvement on Hotmail’s dated look, and with new features such as Sweep (for clearing Inboxes of unwanted content) and the ability to send photo slideshows from your Inbox, it’s certainly a step in the right direction for Microsoft’s webmail service.

According to Law, some users have “expressed appreciation” that Outlook.com reduces the number of on-screen ads, using the extra space for Facebook and Twitter updates. “On average, people saw 60 percent fewer ads when using Outlook.com because they’re now getting much more relevant updates from their friends,” Law wrote.

Hotmail

Since launching Outlook.com last summer, Microsoft has been gently prompting users of its old service, Hotmail, to switch to the new interface. In doing so, such users retain their Hotmail address, though they’re also offered the chance to claim an Outlook.com address too. The company plans to have all Hotmail account holders using Outlook.com by the summer.

Some Hotmail users, particularly those of a nostalgic bent, may be sad to see it finally go. While it enjoyed huge popularity in the late 90s, Google’s Gmail service, which launched in 2004, became hugely popular with web users, and now has around 425 million users. Once all of Microsoft’s Hotmail users have migrated over to Outlook.com, the company will be able to boast somewhere in the region of 300 million users. Yahoo, another big player in the webmail space, currently has around 280 million users.

As part of Microsoft’s overhaul of its web-based services, it’s also shuttering Messenger and moving users over to Skype, which it acquired in 2011.

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