More than 324 million people worldwide have a hotmail.com
account, and the Microsoft-operated online email service has
had a timely revamp.
My Microsoft account goes back to the days of msn.com
addresses, but it is a hotmail.com account, nevertheless. I
never needed to change addresses as my account has followed
me wherever I go.
A disclosure that I also have Gmail, Yahoo, Fastmail and Xtra
Last week, Microsoft launched a revamped Facebook-friendly
version of its free email service in an attempt to reverse
market share losses to Google's fast-growing Gmail.
The Hotmail service is being renamed Outlook, a term familiar
to many who use Microsoft Office products.
Webmail was first introduced with Hotmail in 1996. Back then,
it was novel to have a personal email address you could keep
for life, one that was totally independent from a business or
internet service provider.
Eight years later, Google introduced Gmail, which included
1GB of storage and inbox search.
While Gmail and other webmail services, such as Hotmail, have
added some features since then, not much has fundamentally
changed in webmail during the past eight years.
The Microsoft blog said the company realised it needed to
take a bold step and break from the past and build a new
service from the ground up.
"Already you know Outlook via the Outlook desktop application
for PCs and Macs as the world's most popular application for
reading email, managing a calendar and connecting to people.
And you may have used the Outlook web app connected to
Exchange Server. Now, in addition to a desktop application
and a service for businesses, we're offering Outlook as a
personal email service."
The address given is Outlook.com. Over the next few months,
users will be prompted to switch to the new service.
Microsoft said the service was currently a "preview", meaning
more features would likely be added before the final version
Email is not just about the browser any more, with Microsoft
saying email represented 20% of the time we spend on
smartphones. It was used extensively on tablets as well as
Outlook was designed cloud first, so all of users' email was
Hotmail has about 36% of the global market but it is losing
customers to Gmail, which now has 31% of the market. Yahoo
Mail remains static on 32%.
Microsoft corporate vice-president of Windows Live Chris
Jones said in a blog post the new look for Hotmail was clean
and uncluttered, featuring lots of white space, reminiscent
of Google's recent makeover of Gmail.
Relatively unobtrusive advertisements appear in a column to
the right of the screen when looking at folders. They do not
appear when a message is open.
Users can link up their Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and
Google+ accounts to see the latest updates from friends and
contacts. Online chat is available through Facebook.
Newsletters, offers, daily deals and social updates make up
more than 80% of a typical inbox, according to Microsoft's
Mr Jones said to help combat that overflow, the new service
automatically detected mass messages and put them in separate
folders. Users could customise the process to sort mail any
way they wanted. People also used email to share photos and
work together on documents so also included were free Office
web apps - Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote - which let
users view and edit attachments without leaving their inbox.
Outlook.com also came with SkyDrive so users sending photos,
documents or just about any other file could put then on
SkyDrive and not worry about attachment limits, he said.
Given the concerns about email privacy, Microsoft said it did
not scan email content or attachments and sell the
information and did not show advertisements in personal