In December we took a look at Microsoft’s Hotmail email replacement service Outlook.com to see how it was coming along. At the time Microsoft said that about 25 million people had made the jump with a lot more getting ready. Two months later, users number 60 million, the new service is out of Preview and able to scale to one billion users.
Outlook.com vs Hotmail
Microsoft says that many of the problems that users have had with Outlook.com have been sorted out and that it is now gearing up to start a major marketing campaign to demonstrate exactly what Outlook.com can do.
But it’s been telling us what it can do since the launch last August so it seems a little excessive to start a marketing campaign for something that it says is already successful. Especially now, as users will be forced to move out of Hotmail and over to Outlook by the middle of next month.
Outlook.com’s 60 Million Users
But that’s beside the point. Microsoft says the Outlook.com experiment has been successful, with more than 60 million people signing into it several times a month via web, client or smart phone.
According to a post on the Office blog by David Law, Director of Product Management, Outlook.com:
Now that Outlook.com is coming out of preview, we'll be kicking off a huge push across a number of countries around the world to drive even greater awareness and adoption of Outlook.com. Our goal is to make people everywhere aware of the new and compelling features provided by Outlook.com and to make it easy for them to give Outlook.com a try as a new email service…"
The post also says that by summer, everyone with a Hotmail account will be moved over seamlessly and automatically if they haven’t signed in and upgraded already.
Outlook.com with chat
It also shed a little bit more light on what Microsoft has actually done. The new service is not just a redesigned name and interface for Hotmail. According to Law, it is a brand new email service that has been built from the ground up which, Law says, gives an email experience that is superior to anything that is out there at the moment.
That it is superior to Hotmail is not in doubt. It comes with a number of new features as well as easy access to SkyDrive, which has 7GB of free storage once you sign up. Users are also connecting directly to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn so that Outlook.com replaces advertising with the latest updates from contacts on these social networking sites.
Outlook.com integrating social networks
The result, Law says, is that on average, users have 60 percent less ads inflicted on them than they've had in the past, and are getting updates from friends instead. Outlook.com's tools for handling newsletters and commercial mail — which make up as much as 80 percent of the typical inbox — have also been a success, particularly the Sweep function, which helps people clear out their inbox by moving, archiving or deleting specific mails.
And the response to these changes has been largely positive, but some users are still looking for more. The post from Law was only published yesterday on a US holiday and already there are a considerable number of users pointing out things that Microsoft appears to have missed.
Keeping in mind that Microsoft says 60 million people have signed up, the number of people that have responded to Law's post are not even a fraction of a fraction of that 60 million.
Calendaring, it seems, still needs to be updated — a comment from a number of contributors — while the “available contacts” for Facebook or other social networks appears to be clumsy and cumbersome. And a number of comments question when full Skype integration will be available.
Although there still appears to be work to do, the expectations around email are so high it seems unlikely that any company will ever provide an email set up that keeps everyone happy. If you want to find out more about the useful 'Sweep' function check out the (irritating) video below.