Microsoft has relaunched its Hotmail with a new Metro interface and a new brand — Outlook.
The interface is Redmond’s best attempt yet to provide a clean and uncluttered webmail service, one that’s worth checking out even if you haven’t liked Hotmail in the past.
Microsoft’s moving in the right direction with both the new interface and brand name here. While Hotmail was loved by many in its heyday, over the years it became an object of ridicule, regarded as unprofessional, spammy, cluttered and simply just something to stay away from. (And while using your Hotmail address on your resume shouldn’t cost you a job opportunity, it’s hardly been the best way to impress potential employers.)
Undoubtedly aware of the negativity surrounding the Hotmail brand, Microsoft’s providing new email addresses with the domain Outlook.com. If you want one, you can sign up for it using your existing Hotmail account, or simply register as a new user.
A New Approach
The new Outlook isn’t an iteration of Hotmail. It’s a completely new and different service that doesn’t retain the slightest hint of its Hotmail origins. It’s simple (though the mail settings page still gives me headache), using a flat UI like Windows Phone and the upcoming Windows 8.
Being simple doesn’t mean that Outlook is slim on features. It comes with the Office Web app, SkyDrive, Skype and social networks integration, among others that I have yet to explore.
Having used Gmail myself for years, and having tried Yahoo Mail and Hotmail in the past, I’ve always regarded Gmail as the most usable and powerful webmail service. Outlook has changed my perception.
I still need more time to tell how powerful Outlook is compared to Gmail (I’m spoiled with filters and Gmail gadgets), but judging on aesthetics alone Outlook is winning. It’s a viable alternative to Gmail, and it will be interesting to see how the competition changes things the slow-moving — and even boring — part of the Web.
Microsoft is also taking a jab at Gmail by promising not to scan email bodies in order to display relevant ads, something Google never hesitates to do. In fact, Redmond reserved a section of Outlook’s promotional video just to diss Google’s service, calling it “old mail,” redundant and highlighting its creepy ads.