The Outlook email service is a big part of what makes Microsoft's Office suite of such a success. For many businesses, it's an essential tool that helps them keep track of more than just email correspondence, but also in-house communications, scheduling, task management, and more.
Apparently the world's best known software company is looking to build upon the Outlook name with the release of a brand new free email service launched earlier this week, Outlook.com.
Upon first glance, this may seem like a curious decision, as the company already has the widely used Hotmail platform. More so when you compare the features of the two services, which seem basically identical on paper.
However, once you see Outlook.com, you'll see that they are, in fact, very different products. While Hotmail is littered with gaudy display ads, Outlook.com is are more prudent and professional about the way it presents advertising. Best of all, it doesn't show any targeted ads inside personal email correspondence with individual people (this doesn't include newsletters, etc.), which is great for those users who are a little unnerved by the idea of Web-based email programs scanning their messages for advertising purposes.
The service will offer quick and easy access to social networks Twitter and Facebook, allowing users to retweet, Like, or post comments on the content of an email. It also links to the social profiles of the people that users are corresponding with, so their status updates will appear on the right side of the screen (in place of personalized ads). Eventually, it will also feature integration with the Microsoft-acquired Skype video chat service, just not yet.
With its clean, minimal interface, Outlook.com seems to be Microsoft's attempt to provide a more grown up alternative to Hotmail, which has about as much credibility with Web professionals as a dirty sock.
Outlook.com is already open to the public in a preview period, and users can either create an account or sign in with an existing Hotmail address (which you can "upgrade" to an Outlook.com account). The company is offering nearly unlimited storage, and new accounts will be given access to 7GB of Microsoft SkyDrive cloud storage.