Hotmail is Dead. Long Live Outlook.com

Hotmail is great. If you’re reading this in 1996. Hotmail (or HoTMaiL) was the first successful webmail client and, for those of us around at the time, it was essential to have an account. Hotmail was free, easy to use and acquired by Microsoft in 1997 for an estimated $400 million.

Despite the huge outlay, Microsoft neglected Hotmail for many years and the 2004 release of Gmail changed everything. For many years I’ve thought “ah, bless” whenever anyone reveals they have an @hotmail.com address. (I won’t mention what I think when someone states @aol.com…)

Moving forward, Microsoft is scrapping Hotmail and replacing it with Outlook.com. The service is in “preview mode” but accepting new account sign-ups. It’s free and, should you want to, you can retain your Hotmail address. Existing users can choose Options > Upgrade to Outlook to switch — you can switch back but, ultimately, Hotmail will disappear forever.

Outlook.com Features

Outlook.com is a webmail client. It handles email. On the web. You won’t see anything revolutionary but the features, folders and options are logical and easy to use.

As well as email, Outlook.com can connect with Twitter and Facebook to show recent updates. Skype integration is coming soon and Yammer could be added once Microsoft completes the acquisition.

The online versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint are provided with 7GB of free SkyDrive storage.

The New Interface

Microsoft has opted for a fresh, clean, minimalistic design inspired by the Windows 8 interface (previously known as “Metro” but soon to be dropped owing to trademark issues):

Outlook.com

While Hotmail has improved in recent years, it looks cluttered by comparison:

Outlook.com

Some may consider the interface a little bland but I like it. Those who find Gmail too complicated will almost certainly prefer Outlook.com.

The Advertising

Outlook.com displays adverts based on words and phrases used in emails. Do you remember “Gmail Man” — Microsoft’s swipe at Google for reading your personal emails? Isn’t this the same thing?

No — according to Microsoft. Your Outlook data is private and personal conversations aren’t scanned to show adverts. You’ll only be served with a content-based ad when the email is a newsletter or some other bulk message. Person-to-person emails are not read.

Question: how does Outlook.com know an email is private without scanning it first?

Put it this way, whatever Microsoft are doing, it’s no worse than Google. Besides, until advertisers come on-board, the ads are predominantly for Microsoft software and services.

Can Outlook.com Succeed?

Microsoft squandered their Hotmail investment and it was overtaken by better systems. It’s good to see the company back in the webmail game even if it just provides some healthy competition.

Microsoft are re-entering a mature sector dominated by Google and, historically, they’ve never fared particularly well. Outlook.com is a great system but it’s no better than the alternatives. Yet. It will undoubtedly win some users but reaching and overtaking Gmail is another matter.

That said, Outlook.com gained one million users in its first six hours. Microsoft has a long journey ahead but they’re on the right road.

Sign-up and assess Outlook.com for yourself…

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  • http://www.mulawka.com Brian M

    I tried it out a couple days ago and the only drawback I could find is that it doesn’t yet allow imap accounts, so it’s pop3 only. In terms of the user experience, thought, I thought it was absolutely amazing, and especially considering it is a web app. It has all the utility of gmail with a great deal more elegance. I would be surprised if it didn’t become the standard very soon.

    • Pooky

      Actually, Outlook.com uses Exchange, so IMAP isn’t really an issue.

      What I have found amazing on the coverage of this topic throughout the web is the fact that almost no one seems to recognize the fact that aside from the domain name and interface change, this is the same service as Hotmail/Live is now. I recently moved from my Yahoo account to a Hotmail account (using a Live.com domain), and am so glad I did. Hotmail has exchange (Yahoo does not have IMAP), so if I read an email on my iPhone, it’s marked as read on the web interface. I can use my Hotmail account in Outlook (can’t do that with Yahoo), and I can even put my reading pane on the side in the web interface (picky, but something Yahoo STILL won’t let me do).

      I’m not a fan of Gmail, but I am quite happy with Hotmail. The changes that Microsoft made a few years ago have dramatically improved the service. Outlook.com does little more than put a new skin on it. My only problem with that is I don’t really care for the “Metro” interface (or whatever they’re going to call it now), but that’s why I have Outlook.

  • http://www.gighive.com/ GiGhive Music

    Funny I have both gmail and Hotmail accounts. I use my Hotmail all 99% of the time because I am used to working with it. I probably would never change up until I am actually forced to. Hopefully outlook works out, but this is news to me.

  • Ryan

    About time. @hotmail is so unprofessional sounding and it reminds me of the geocities and angelfire days.

  • dcl3500

    Really? How many people will be rushing to change their hotmail address to an outlook address? I doubt many will at all, unless we are forced to. Thousands of people have our hotmail addresses and think of the major pain it would be to force everyone, think of paying clients here, to update your email address. Hell, how many of us even update our cell phone numbers now that we can take them with us virtually anywhere we move to.

    You, Mr. Buckler, are welcome to ask your clients to update their contact list to reflect your new address, and while you are hoping they do, myself and all the rest of the consultants will be sure to send them our plain old hotmail addresses to add to their contact list.

    • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

      As mentioned in the article, no one’s forcing you to change address. You can keep hotmail.com or whatever you’re using.

    • http://microsoft.com william

      Seriously!!! You are a consultant using a hotmail addressed email??? That in itself is the most unprofessional thing i have ever heard, you’re a joke mate!

  • dcl3500

    Have to admit here, I never use a web client for email, currently using the Windows Live Mail client, I have 10 addresses I use on a regular basis, hotmail and gmail amongst them all and just find it easier to a standalone app to coordinate all of them in one spot.

    • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

      You can use GMail or Outlook/Hotmail to download email from other accounts. Personally, I’ve been using Outlook since 1997 and prefer it to a webmail client, however, most of my email is routed to a single GMail account so I have the benefits of both.

  • http://www.customicondesign.com/ Custom Icon Design

    Ok, I will upgrade my hotmail to outlook. Outlook seems better than hotmail. thanks for remind this.

  • http://www.erpmauritius.com ashvindx

    I think this time Microsoft is really very late. Like you said, it’s a mature market. And more importantly, why would Microsoft still want a piece of the free email market? Unless it’s going to be tightly coupled with the next Windows… Who knows…

    • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

      Advertising remains very lucrative even if the software is ‘free’. In addition, it would make some sense if Outlook.com became the default Windows email client.

  • Pedro H.

    I wonder how HTML design will be from now on…
    What is your take on this Chris?

  • http://netvinyas.com Prabhakar Bhat

    Actually, outlook has potential.

    Windows 8 requires a live ID to sign in, and you get Outlook email straight away. This live thing is integrated throughout Windows ecosystem – Xbox, Outlook.com, Zune, Office 365, Windows Phone & Windows 8. If Windows 8 succeeds, Outlook may become big. I use it, and love it.

  • Matt

    Hotmail seemed more apt for Microsoft, considering the company seems to be stuck in the 90s anyway.

  • http://bibidho.com Nash

    I’m a fan of gmail. I dont thing that ioutlook will be able to take away gmail user to use only/mainly outlook.com

    Yes some person may have an account on outlook but they will seldom visit to that.