Hotmail Gets A New Outlook
Microsoft recently gave Hotmail, its free Webmail service, a major makeover. Even the domain name is changing; Hotmail.com is morphing into Outlook.com. The new look is cleaner, simpler, and aligned with the look and feel of the new Windows 8 interface. Should you make the switch? Let's find out...
Outlook.com Replaces Hotmail
Hotmail is history. And Outlook.com is the cool new webmail kid on the block. Social networks, cloud storage, and Microsoft Office integration are some of the biggest new features. Let’s look at these and some other ways in which Outlook.com is different.
Outlook.com is integrated with Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. If you have Hotmail contacts on any of these social networks, Outlook.com can pull their profile pictures, Timelines, and Twitter feeds into your email viewing environment. Facebook Chat is accessible through Outlook.com. Soon, Skype (which Microsoft purchased in 2011) will be added.
Microsoft’s SkyDrive cloud storage service is tied into Outlook.com. Instead of attaching huge files to email messages, you can send a SkyDrive link to recipients. Pictures can be displayed in thumbnails, and the recipient can decide whether to download complete files. Your Contacts and Calendar cloud services are also available within Outlook.com. A unique feature of Outlook.com is the ability to view MS Office Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents using Office Web Apps.
Outlook.com is trying to become the portal to all of your social networks and communication tools. Not a bad idea, given that Google has already done a similar thing by tying together Gmail, Google+, Google Talk, Google Voice and Google Drive.
If you already have a Hotmail account, just log into it to be switched over to the new look. You can also create an account at Outlook.com. But you don’t have to switch from the Hotmail.com domain to Outlook.com if you don’t want to – at least, not yet. Users will need time to make that adjustment.
Like Gmail, Outlook.com has ads. They’re unobtrusive text link ads over on the right side of your viewing screen. Microsoft targets ads but doesn’t “read” your email in order to do so. The company says it scans only the subject lines and senders to guess what ads are most relevant to you. I tested this by sending an email to my Outlook.com address with “Ford Motor Cars” in the subject line, and some juicy text about mesothelioma in the message body. Lawyers spend huge dollars on this keyword, so I thought it would be a good test.
The result: no ads for mesothelioma lawyers, but no ads for Ford or cars either. My ads were for odd things like italian sunglass cases, eye drops, flip flops and canine de-worming kits. I’ve never searched for or purchased any of those things online, so why those appeared is a mystery. Let’s assume they’re telling the truth about not scanning the text of your emails, and they’re still working on the ad relevancy stuff.
But wait... in the Quick View section, there are links labelled Documents, Photos and Shipping Updates. When new messages arrive that contain Word or Excel documents, photos, or tracking numbers for packages, they’ll be flagged in these special folders. But don’t they need to read your message to see if it contains any of those things? Hmmm...
There are a few other features that I thought were cool or useful. The “rename your address” feature seems handy if you want to change your address because you got married, you're getting too much spamm, or you're just tired of being "SnuggleKitten70291". After renaming your email address, your email will go to your new inbox, and you can keep your old mail in a separate folder. Your contacts, photos and anything stored on SkyDrive will also switch over to your new address.
Of course, both your old and new addresses must be in the Outlook.com domain. You can’t use this feature to switch from Gmail or AOL to Outlook. But you can use the “Sending/receiving email from other accounts” option (click the gear, then “More mail settings”) to configure your Outlook account to pull in your messages from another email account. I couldn’t find any way to import address book contacts, a critical feature for those wanting to switch email providers.
The new look and features of Outlook.com may help Microsoft regain its title as the world’s leading Webmail service. The latest figures from ComScore show Hotmail has 360 million users to Gmail’s 425 million. Social networking integration, Skype video-conferencing, and cloud-based Office tools make Outlook.com a lot more than just email. It will be interesting to see how many users make the switch.
Me? I’m sticking with Gmail, where I (and my ten gigabytes of email) have been since 2004. Is there some compelling feature in Outlook.com that would tempt you away from Gmail, Yahoo Mail or your preferred email provider? Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 6 Aug 2012
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Hotmail Gets A New Outlook (Posted: 6 Aug 2012)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved