Microsoft is changing its free webmail service, dropping the Hotmail brand name in a bid to reinvent it as Outlook.com. Is it the next step for email, or will Gmail continue to reign over the webmail kingdom?
Microsoft’s blog post introducing the new Outlook.com describes it as ‘modern email for the next billion email boxes’.
The service claims to offer better email filtering, so when an email pops into your inbox Outlook.com sorts your email based on whether it’s a social media alert, a newsletter or just a bog-standard email. Microsoft’s Chris Jones said on the company’s blog post:
‘We realized that we needed to take a bold step, break from the past and build you a brand new service from the ground up.’
What’s new in Outlook.com
The new-look service is clearly designed with mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, in mind – no surprises there with Microsoft’s Windows 8 on the horizon.
To that end Outlook.com has (according to Microsoft) 60% fewer pixels in its header and there are 30% more messages visible in your inbox than the webmail most people are used to. So in theory you’ll see more emails when looking at your inbox on a smaller display.
The new look may be more streamlined, but it’s also incredibly dull. It mirrors that of the Outlook inbox used in many offices. And, sorry Microsoft, but when I’m checking personal emails and reading my social updates, the last thing I want to be reminded of is work.
The Outlook name is commonly associated with Outlook and Outlook Express. These are email clients that suck email from the web into an inbox stored on your PC. Recently the Outlook Express client has since been superseded by Windows Live Mail.
There’s a lot of confusion around what is and isn’t an email client, with people confusing Windows Live Mail (the client) and Windows Live Hotmail (webmail). Microsoft’s rebranding of the service – yet again – will cause yet more confusion.
Hotmail members complain of lost accounts
Some people are also reporting problems in the switchover to Outlook.com from Hotmail. Commenting on Microsoft’s blog, Gaurav Tyagi wrote:
‘I made a blunder by switching to Outlook.com and lost my 12 year email [account] I had at MSN.’
Like Gaurav I’ve had my Hotmail account for several years – over 15 – I can’t express how vexed I would be were this to disappear as a part of this transition.
Others have complained that once they sign into Outlook.com for the first time just to check it out, and then go back to Hotmail.com and log in there, they’re automatically presented with the new Outlook… look.
It is possible to revert back to the old Hotmail look. Once logged in via either Hotmail or Outlook.com, click the settings button (shaped like a cog, top-right), scroll down and click ‘switch back to Hotmail’.
I’ve already changed mine back and will be sticking to Hotmail as long as I can. Will you?