I've taken a slightly deeper look at Outlook Live, the new service from Microsoft, which provides Exchange email for free as part of their Office/Windows Live drive for students.
Upon closer inspection, Office Live is difficult to describe as one thing. It's a mixture between the web Live Hotmail, offline Live Mail, throw in a little Office '97 if you can remember it and Microsoft Office 2007.
I know, mind boggling isn't it?
It's clearly a Windows Live service of sorts, which makes it easily identifiable to the user and sets them in a comfort zone. But it's based on Outlook Mail Access which you may or may not already have access to at university.
What others have overlooked is the presence which can be clearly seen. Being able to communicate with each other instantly and effectively, whether it is over instant-messaging or email, is essential.
For mobile users, you can have pretty much everything set up for you. A few tweaks your end and you are set up with Exchange synchronisation. Not only can you have your email contacts on the go, but you get your mobile contacts in the cloud. It's simplicity, for convenience, and for productivity. Three seemingly interesting yet boring words.
The first one to note is what it'll look like on your Mac. Mac's are still highly saught-after in universities, especially by the fashion hungry student. You can click for larger images.
From hereon in, you'll see what it looks and feels like in Internet Explorer. Of course, because it's a multi-browser platform, it'll work on any browser regardless of operating system (so they tell me).
Downloading files are easy as they open up straight away in a preview window. Also seeing where the conversation leads is a vast improvement than having multiple emails. Threading is better!
The junk mail feature can be provided by the university or by Microsoft. It's easy to remove spam, block and allow senders, but also you get no advertisements as a member of staff, a student or an academic.
Finally, with the calendar view, you can share, create, and manage mutiple sets of calendars; having essays on one, social clubs on the other, and special occasions on another. It'll help you manage your academic and social life so you don't have to. You'd be amazed at the social networking quality Outlook Live has, considering it's "just an email application".