Microsoft Revamps Hotmail as Outlook, Takes Aim at Rivals

Features Reuters

Microsoft Corp unveiled a revamped, Facebook-friendly version of its free, online email service on Tuesday in an attempt to reverse market share losses to Google Inc's fast-growing Gmail.

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From Tuesday, Microsoft is renaming its Hotmail service Outlook, giving it a sharp new look, social network links, and new features for handling the tide of junk and mass mail that swamps many users.

Microsoft's Hotmail was still the world's largest online mail service as of June, according to the latest comScore figures available, with 324 million users, or about 36 percent of the global market.

But it is losing customers to Google's Gmail, the fastest-growing rival, which now has about 31 percent of the market. Yahoo Mail is static with about 32 percent.

In a bid to recapture growth, Microsoft is renaming the service Outlook, a name familiar to most corporate workers who use Microsoft's Office email application, and sprucing up the whole experience.

The new look is clean and uncluttered, foregrounding white space, reminiscent of Google's recent makeover of Gmail. Relatively unobtrusive advertisements appear in a column to the right of the screen when looking at folders. They do not appear when looking at a message.

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Users can link up with their Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ accounts, to see the latest updates from friends and contacts. Online chat is available via Facebook.

Newsletters, offers, daily deals and social updates make up over 80 percent of a typical inbox, according to Microsoft's own research. To help combat that overflow, the new service automatically detects mass messages and puts them in separate folders. A user can customize the process to sort mail any way they want to.

The new mail service also allows easy use of Microsoft's Internet-based products, such as SkyDrive for storing documents, Office Web Apps for working away from a PC, and will eventually have Skype video chat built in. Users can access the service at www.outlook.com.