Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) unveiled its new Outlook.com product on Tuesday, giving a new look to the hundreds of millions of Hotmail users around the world.
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The company had been beta testing the new email service since July 2012, growing to 60 million users in its first six months of use. The biggest change visible, in addition to the new user interface, is a drop down menu at the top of the screen where users can now access four new “folders” including ones for mail, people, calendar and SkyDrive.
Social tools allow Hotmail users to finally connect with Facebook, Sina, LinkedIn and Twitter and other sites to stay updated on the very latest. One key feature of the upgrade also includes integration with SkyDrive, its “Google Drive” competitor, with cloud access to documents and photos at the click of a button.
Another new feature is the “sweep to organize” addition, which allows users to automatically keep certain emails out of their inbox and lets them unsubscribe from pesky unwanted newsletters with one click, which I found in my testing to be really useful.
In my early test of the new Outlook.com, I found it a welcome upgrade to Hotmail, which has lagged behind competitors in keeping up with new features (though I did notice that all parts of the user interface were not fully rolled out). The former “Windows Live” look would pop up when I accessed my calendar, making for a confusing branding experience.
Overall, the company is smartly trying to capitalize on its Hotmail user base to gain share in the increasingly competitive cloud storage space with more robust offerings, in which Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) are also vying.
It is unclear how quickly the new features will appear in users Hotmail inboxes. The company said in a release that “starting today, Microsoft will begin to upgrade every Hotmail user to Outlook.com.”