Outlook is essentially the “new” Hotmail, with Microsoft renaming the world’s largest email service after the Microsoft Office email service. Hotmail is features 324 million users currently, according to June statistics, and accounts for 36 percent of the global market.
Google’s Gmail has been nipping at its heels, though, achieving about 31 percent of the market. Yahoo has 32 percent.
Existing Hotmail users will be asked to shift to the new Outlook service over the course of the next few months and will instantly notice aesthetic differences, with lots of white space and a less cluttered look. Early reports have Outlook looking an awful lot like the simple, clean design of Gmail – and that’s no accident.
“A lot has changed in the last eight years, and we think it’s time for a fresh look at email,” Chris Jones, Microsoft’s corporate vice-president of Windows Live, said.
The email client appears to be quicker and more responsive than Hotmail and the folders are thankfully easier to organize. Microsoft has expedited this process too, adding filters that detect mass messages and slip them into separate folders. The process can be fully customized to ensure that users have control over what messages go where.
Social networking is also linked in, with Facebook, Twitter and Google+ accounts integrated for users to see updates and other items of interest from their contacts and friends. The address book looks to be a hub for this sort of thing, offering photos, statuses and updates from contacts in one place.
Outlook is also integrated with goodies like Microsoft’s SkyDrive for document storage and Office Web Apps. Skype video chat is also expected to be set up with Outlook.
Users can also collaborate easily with Microsoft Office tools. Word, Excel and PowerPoint files can be opened with “full fidelity” directly from the inbox. Documents can be saved and shared without attachments.
Right now, Outlook is available in preview mode. Users can get a pretty good indication as to what the service looks like, although word around the campfire is that more features will be added before the actual release. Users can also offer feedback through the options menu.