All Change, All Change
Microsoft seems to think email has become staid and boring, and it is probably right. It has launched a preview of the new Hotmail.com to do something about it, with a new clean interface, improving your interaction with the people who contact you, and the documents they send.
Everything is explained in a new Outlook Blog post, with a glossy video and instructions to move over from your Hotmail account. Outlook.com supports Exchange ActiveSync, so you can link it to your calendars, enterprise servers and so on. As its only a preview, some features are still to be added, there's no IMAP yet, and new ones will be added over time.
Early comments and reports suggest the browser-based service is having trouble with Opera, and isn't perfect in iOS or Android, but these things can be ironed out. Microsoft, naturally enough, has plans to make it a perfect service across Windows 8 devices, to try and nudge users in that direction. But, the only way to really see if you like it is to give it a go.
Meet The New Email
With its use of neat use of white and grey space, the new Outlook.com looks like a clean, almost surgical, environment. The initial improvements are small but obvious, if you want to delete or flag an email, choose that option on the email's line, no ticking boxes and wading through menus. On the upper right is a Chat button and plenty of the usual settings options.
You can add a reading pane at the bottom or right-hand side, if you like your messages set up that way. The right-hand side has adverts in at the start, but when you start getting email from friends, that becomes populated with their details and social information, link the service to Twitter and Facebook and you'll see your friend's latest posts.
Click the Outlook button the top left and you get instant access to your Calendars and SkyDrive folders while the People option allows you to import contacts from Google, Outlook accounts and CSV files, and link in your social sites.
Certainly, first impressions are largely positive, but if you use email for pure email, then there is little in the way of "wow-moment" progress, beyond some time-saving touches. Still, there is plenty of time for Outlook.com to evolve into something greater and with the likes of Skype integration coming soon, it could become a really powerful messaging tool.
This comes hot on the heels of Microsoft upgrading Bing maps, expect plenty more web service upgrades as the company prepares for an all Windows 8 world.