You've got to give Microsoft credit. It's trying to haul itself into the 21st Century but it has a lot of baggage to drag along. Take Hotmail, the company's rather tired email service. It's being shoved aside by a newcomer with an old name: Outlook.com.
The Outlook email program has always been one of Windows' most popular features, even though Microsoft inexplicably omitted it from Windows 7. Users like it because it's simple and straightfoward and easily integrates a calendar, address book and other essentials in a way that is both attractive and straightforward.
The new Outlook.comÂ offers the first major improvement to cloud mail in eight years, said Chris Jones, Microsoft's corporate vice president of Windows Live.
"We think the time is right to reimagine personal email, from the datacenter to the user experience," he said recently. "So today we're introducing a preview of Outlook.com."
Jones said Outlook.com, which builds off the power of the Outlook people have long used on their PCs and Macs, has a fresh, clean user interface that gets the clutter out of inboxes and takes away display ads and large search boxes, and works well with smartphones, tablets, and the new Outlook 2013 Preview.Â
Outlook.com will be simpler to use than Hotmail and will serve as a single hub for contracts on email, Facebook, Twitter and so forth, Microsoft burbled happily.
Hotmail goes back a long way. It was launched in 1996 and was one of the first free online email services. It now has about 350 million users, trailing the much newer Gmail, which has about 425 million.Â
Hotmail launched in 1996 as one of the first free online email services, helping popularize the idea of advertising-supported email. In 1998, Microsoft acquired Hotmail, which now has about 350 million active users.
Outlook.com will have ads, but they won't be based on the content of emails, Microsoft said, seeming to contradict Jones. Gmail is supported by contextual and keyword-driven advertising.
For now, Hotmail users can continue using Hotmail, although a "preview" period for Outlook.com starts this week. During that time, users will have the option to convert to Outlook.com and their emails will be automatically forwarded to their new address at outlook.com.