Microsoft introduces Outlook.com, Hotmail's planned successor

Microsoft introduces Outlook.com, Hotmail's planned successor

Summary: Microsoft is rolling out a preview of a new email service that combines elements of Exchange and Hotmail into a Metro-influenced client.

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Back in June, there were leaks about an alleged new Microsoft mail client -- "Newmail" -- something LiveSide.net described as a Metro-style Hotmail."

newmailinboxandchat

On July 31, Microsoft took the wraps off a preview version of that new client, which it is formally christening "Outlook.com." (The screen shot above is an example of what the new Outlook.com interface looks like.)

Microsoft is billing Outlook.com as a new free mail service that pulls features from Hotmail and Exchange. It is designed for personal/consumer use; Microsoft continues to position Outlook as its business e-mail client. Outlook.com is integrated with Windows and Office, and can pull in Twitter, Facebook, Gmail and LinkedIn contacts. The new mail client has the Metro look and feel. And it is providing users with more granular control over which ads they see and where they see them.

In some countries, @Hotmail email addresses are not pariahs. But in others, they're considered as unhip as @aol addresses. While Microsoft is not currently requiring Hotmail users to move to Outlook.com, the longer-term plan is to convince them to move to Outlook.com. There's no word on when (or definitively if) Microsoft will pull the plug on Hotmail.com, but I'd guess there is a date on someone's calendar at Microsoft as to when this will happen.

Those who've been following the increasingly regular feature updates that the Hotmail team has added to the service will be familiar with Outlook.com's features. The ability to view previews of attached photos; to "sweep" unwanted messages in bulk; to weed out "gray" (junk) mail more easily; and to access Microsoft's Office Web Apps (the Webified versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote) from inside mail are all part of Outlook.com. (I'm not really sure which unique Exchange features are part of Outlook.com. Anyone?)

contactsinnewmail

Microsoft is providing new Outlook.com users with 7 GB of free cloud storage through SkyDrive. (If you already have a SkyDrive account, I don't believe you get an extra 7 GB added to your total available storage if you sign up for Outlook.com, however.) As it has been doing with Hotmail, Microsoft is trying to wean Outlook.com users from sending attachments. Instead, the focus is on saving files, photos and other content to the cloud, with "smart layouts" in email messages showing recipients what they can see via links and/or downloads.

On Windows devices, including Windows 8 and Windows RT tablets and PCs, users will have the option of choosing which mail client they want to use (when they click on the Mail app). One of the permitted choices will be Outlook.com. And on other mobile devices and phones -- not just Windows Phones, but any phone that supports Exchange ActiveSync -- Outlook.com will be a supported mail option, as well.

For those wondering about Skype integration, especially given this week's news regarding Google replacing Gmail video chat with Google+ Hangouts, Microsoft is dangling the promise of, at some point in the future, being able to launch Skype video calls from inside Outlook.com inboxes without having to use the Skype app. (It sounds like the ability to use Outlook.com plus video calling from the Web will be another option here.)

Microsoft is not commenting on when it expects Outlook.com will advance beyond the test stage. As of today, it is available in preview form. Those who already have @hotmail.com and/or @live.com email addresses that they want to move to @outlook.com can click "Upgrade to Outlook.com" in the options menu. Those who do not have existing Microsoft consumer mail accounts with those addresses can sign up for a new @outlook.com email address via www.outlook.com.

Update: As my ZDNet colleague Matthew Miller notes, there is a warning from Microsoft not to rename your existing @hotmail or @live emails to @outlook ones on Windows Phones. It's fine to create a new outlook.com address for your phone, but Microsoft is advising against renaming because current Xbox Live, Skydrive, Marketplace and other settings are tied to the old addresses.

Update No. 2: At the end of the day (EST) on July 31, the Outlook.com team tweeted that a million people had signed up for the Outlook.com preview. (This means, I'd assume, 1 million new names were registered, with individuals registering multiple names.)

Topics: Cloud, Google, Microsoft, Mobility

About

Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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77 comments
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  • Any Word on Authentication in SharePoint with these Addresses?

    At this point, you can share a site in SharePoint on Office 365 with Hotmail accounts (use the Hotmail address as a login that can be assigned rights to). Can you do that with new addresses as well?
    WebSiteManager
  • More or Less spam?

    Does it come with spam?
    That_Boy
    • "90% less spam on Hotmail"

      http://windowsteamblog.com/windows_live/b/windowslive/archive/2011/08/03/90-less-spam-in-hotmail-15-less-spam-on-the-internet.aspx
      ian.aldrighetti
    • Only gmail comes without spam

      Having the best search technology in the world has it's benefits...
      T1Oracle
      • Really?

        While I'm sure Gmail does attempt to block some spam, my gmail account is still full of it.
        Tony_McS
        • Inbox spam, or spambox spam?

          When you say "my gmail is still full of it", are you saying your INBOX is full of spam, or your spam folder is full of spam?
          I have 9 addresses with Gmail, and I don't use any of them to register for services. With those 9 accounts COMBINED, I'll usually see one or two spam messages in my inbox during any given year.

          With Gmail, if you're getting spam in your inbox, 99.99% of the time it's your own fault because you used your e-mail address to "sign up" for some crap which is now sending you spam that you CONSENTED to receive.
          ThePickle
        • Inbox spam, or spambox spam?

          When you say "my gmail is still full of it", are you saying your INBOX is full of spam, or your spam folder is full of spam?
          I have 9 addresses with Gmail, and I don't use any of them to register for services. With those 9 accounts COMBINED, I'll usually see one or two spam messages in my inbox during any given year.

          With Gmail, if you're getting spam in your inbox, 99.99% of the time it's your own fault because you used your e-mail address to "sign up" for some crap which is now sending you spam that you CONSENTED to receive.
          ThePickle
          • Inbox Spam

            I have a gmail and a hotmail account. I use both to sign up for services. I get almost zero spam on hotmail, loads on gmail. I don't think anyone counts spam that is in the spam folder unless they are a complete moron.

            Also I often get genuine e-mail in my gmail spam folder so I have to check it regularly. I don't think I've EVER had a false positive with hotmail, which I consider to be much more important. I don't check as often because I know how reliably it is but usually I find the gmail ones after I haven't received something that I'm expecting.

            I know only one data point so nothing you can draw definitive conclusions from but positive signs for hotmail spam.
            mog0
      • That's a lie

        I agree with Tony_McS, I still get SPAM on gmail. I also gets ads based off what is in my messages, which is quite creepy.
        ikissfutebol
        • Ads...?

          My god...have you ever heard of an e-mail client?
          Get your e-mail like an intelligent person, and you'll see ZERO advertisements.
          Get your e-mail like a clueless newbie, and you deserve to be bombarded with ads.
          ThePickle
    • Does it come with spam?

      Does a burger come with fries?
      klumper
      • I think it is a No in all markets,

        unless you order a Happy(tm) Meal.
        kingkong88@...
    • If it's spam you're looking for...

      ...you have two options: Either choose another webmail service, or check your junk mail folder in Hotmail/Outlook.com
      jaykayess
    • Of course..

      Of course it comes with spam.
      Oodles and oodles of spam.
      It's brought to you by Microsoft. They go hand-in-hand with spam.
      It's like asking if Sigfried comes with Roy.
      ThePickle
  • WHats wrong with hotmail?

    People email me at hotmail, not moving to outlook.com just because some a-hole think i should.

    email addresses can't be changed, also not everyone wants to work with an outlook like kind of interface.


    And why would i bother to go to outlook.com, probably will only last a few years and that will be ditched too, customers don't like using a service that has uncertainty.

    And microsoft as of late, is showing a lot of uncertainty with their products forcing customers to change left right and center every few years, so why invest is something when it will be changed on you?


    Maybe if outlook.com has been around for 5+ years I might consider, but hotmail has been around in the 90's and I been with it since the beginning.

    hotmail is a brand name that everyone knows, and can't be switched up just because some idiot in office wants to get his jollies up.
    ShqTth
    • f-n hell

      What ever you do, do not click on the link for outlook.com, as it automatically upgrades you from hotmail.


      Microsoft didn't even as, it just did it automatically. THank you Microsoft for screwing up my email. Now go f-yourself.
      ShqTth
      • switching back

        Sorry you don't like the new interface, you can switch back, click the gear icon (options) in the top right and select "switch back to Hotmail"
        Outlook Team
        • thanks

          thanks i see that. Just wish i got warned before i got switched over. was kind of unexpected. all i had was a blank screen. never asked me anything. Was using Safari. All I wanted was to check out the outlook.com page, but because of passport, i guess it auto signed me in since i was in hotmail the other day. But still no question about upgrading. customers don't like surprises.
          ShqTth
        • Switching Back

          You can switch back for now but how long before we are forced to make the switch? About three months? Why not just move to gmail now? No need to waight till October?
          imsimsj
          • Gmail v's Hotmail??? I'll stick with GMX thankyou very much!

            You've gotta be kidding!

            Do yourself a favour and check out GMX. For those not living in Germany, it is an alternative (and yes FREE still) alternative to [i]both[/i] Gmail & Hotmail/Live... and it especially shows up Gmail.

            With a "preview pane" that has been bug-free (in two configurations of choice) for ages now, unlimited in-box, cloud storage attached, I'll stick with them and use gmail account purely for the purposes of account on Android
            kaninelupus