Many people used Hotmail for their first email account. However, as more options – like Gmail – became available, people started moving away from Hotmail.
Today, Hotmail’s brand image has been tarnished. After all, when many people think of Hotmail, they think of the emails they used to send in elementary school or junior high. Having an @gmail.com account tends to look more professional.
Microsoft is well aware of what people think of Hotmail, and they’re ready to show off a new and improved version of Hotmail to the world. Actually, this new and improved version isn’t Hotmail at all. Instead, it’s Outlook.com, a revamped version of Microsoft’s flagship email program.
While the Outlook.com interface is clearly styled off of Windows 8, you don’t need Windows 8 to use it. Just like Gmail, you sign into your @Outlook.com account through your browser.
After signing in, users see a similar interface to Gmail, although there are plenty of little tweaks that make Outlook.com so much better than Gmail. That’s right: Microsoft has successfully managed to turn the Hotmail brand around and deliver a fantastic email experience for users.
Here are a few of the features we love about Outlook.com so far:
Easy interface: Nobody wants to read an instruction manual before they try to send an email. Sending emails, receiving emails, and editing contact information is as easy as possible with Outlook.com
Switch layouts: Microsoft will eventually move all Hotmail users to this system, but for now, users can jump back and forth between classic Hotmail view and the revamped view.
Free: Outlook.com registration is now open. It’s free, and anybody can sign up. You don’t even need a special invitation, which is what Google used to promote Gmail in the early days.
Personalization options: You can personalize your account with a number of different colors, all of which feature shades of Windows 8. While there aren’t a whole lot of customization features available, it’s nice to change the appearance of Outlook around.
Unobtrusive advertisements: Just like Gmail, Outlook.com will display ads. However, there’s one big difference between the ads on Gmail and Outlook.com. Instead of reading your emails and displaying ads relevant to that content, Microsoft claims that Outlook.com will not read through your emails. In addition, advertisements disappear when you’re reading emails, and they only appear on the email home-screen. When you’re using any online free service, advertisements are unavoidable, but it’s easy to appreciate the fact that Microsoft wanted its ads to be visible, but not annoying.
People hub and social media integration: If you’ve been researching Windows 8 lately, then you probably know about the People app, which manages contact information across all of your friends’ accounts. So, instead of having to find your friend’s number on Facebook, and then looking through your smartphone for their email address, you can have all that information inside the People app. Outlook.com makes full use of the People app. Contact pictures appear beside each email, and you can even see your contact’s latest tweets and status updates.
You don’t have to integrate Facebook if you don’t want to, but these features are certainly very cool. You can even post directly to somebody’s wall from Outlook.com, or chat with them over IM. Outlook.com made social media a key part of its Outlook.com design. In other services, social media integration has the tendency to feel lame and useless (why would you want to send a tweet over your TV?), but in Outlook.com, the social features are unobtrusive but useful.
Seamless photo and video viewer: Instead of having to open pictures and videos individually, you can just click on one picture to open a slideshow of all the pictures attached to that email. Or, if a friend sends you a video, a built-in YouTube player pops up immediately after you click on that video link.
Spam and unsubscribe features: Anti-spam support is one of Gmail’s most popular features. Whatever filters Google uses to weed out spam emails, they’re incredibly effective. Gmail also has an ‘unsubscribe’ button if you’ve inadvertently been signed up for some newsletter you don’t want. Outlook.com has similar anti-spam protection. Although it’s difficult to say how effective its spam filters will be at this point, we can only hope they’re as effective as the filters in Gmail.
With Windows 8 tablets, smartphones, and PCs being released later this year, it’s clear to see that Microsoft wants Windows 8 to take over our lives.
Outlook.com is surprisingly intuitive, and it’s certainly worth a try. While Hotmail’s interface was starting to look dated, the revamped Outlook.com is built to impress. Microsoft’s goal was to reverse the negative brand image people have about Hotmail, and it certainly appears they’ve done so.
Sign up for your @outlook.com account today!