Microsoft has introduced a new webmail service, Outlook.com, which – in all likelihood – will eventually replace the veteran Hotmail.
Outlook.com is, of course, named after the Redmond-based company’s existing email client, although this is a fresh cloud-based version. Microsoft is driving hard at the cloud with Windows 8, SkyDrive, and indeed the next incarnation of Office, which will have a cloud-based version (Office 365).
A preview version of Outlook.com is live now, and anyone with a Hotmail account can sign in to upgrade to the new system – with their contacts, old emails, folders, filters and so forth all ported across.
Your Hotmail address will still remain active, incidentally, but it’s a fair bet Microsoft will eventually look to phase Hotmail out, and shift everyone onto Outlook.com.
And if you haven’t got a Hotmail account, you can simply create an Outlook.com one from scratch.
So what’s the deal with Outlook.com? Unsurprisingly, it takes elements from the Metro style interface Microsoft is pushing across all its devices, from Windows 8 on the desktop, through tablets and Windows Phone handsets.
The clean and streamlined interface is designed to make it easier to deal with your mail on tablets and smartphones, as well as the desktop. There are no ads here, either.
Social media integration is the other main pillar of Outlook.com, with Microsoft hoping to draw back the folks who message each other on the likes of Facebook, rather than using email.
Outlook.com is hooked up to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google, plus Skype support is on the way. Status updates and tweets will whizz straight into your inbox, although naturally, you can customise this and cut the ties with social networks if you don’t want to know.
Microsoft is also promising that the new email client will automatically sort your email, too, pulling out social network updates, newsletters and the like from “genuine” messages.
Integration with Office Web Apps is also provided, so you can open a document in the web version of Word, right in your inbox (much as with Google Docs and Gmail now). Of course, Outlook.com is tied into SkyDrive for storage, as well.
Chris Jones of Microsoft posted on the Outlook blog: “A lot has changed in the last eight years, and we think it’ time for a fresh look at email – modern, connected, smart, powerful, and in control. So try out the preview at Outlook.com. We think you’ll like what you see.”