Are you a Hotmail user? If so, you are so 1996! At least, that is what Microsoft would like you to think. Today, on the Outlook blog, Microsoft announced a modern approach to email called Outlook.com – “modern email designed for the next billion mailboxes”. Below is an introductory video that gives you a brief overview of the new concepts they incorporated in the new Outlook.com.
All of this is pomp and circumstance of course, to get everyone excited about the fall line of Windows 8 related products. Microsoft figures a lot of people are used to using Outlook already and quite frankly, I agree. Now you have the ability to leverage an Outlook type client on the web. If you go to Outlook.com, you can login with your current Hotmail credentials or create a brand new Outlook.com address if you like. See “How to Get Your Own Outlook.com Email Address” article for more details. Once you get logged in, you will notice the screen is a little different than the typical Hotmail setup. If you look at the picture below, you can see the inbox is very much dressed up like the up and coming Windows 8 Metro UI. The colors are vivid and the screen is really clean.
One nifty feature I like is the Quick Views. It is located in the bottom left corner of your Inbox. See the picture below for an example.
If you click on the “Documents” quick view, then all of the emails in your mailbox that have documents attached will be filtered out so you can see them. They even thought of “Shipping Dates”. I thought that was pretty cool. You can even create your own custom views.
At the top of the Outlook.com window is an Outlook icon that has a downward pointing arrow to the right of it. This serves up a menu, pictured below, if you click it. Notice how much it looks like the Windows 8 icons you have been seeing in the Windows 8 developer preview and the Office 2013 Consumer preview.
Basically, you are served up with 4 options. You can view your mail by clicking the “Mail’ icon. If you click the “People” icon, you get a list of your contacts. One big thing that they are pushing is how easily you can integrate Facebook with Outlook.com. If you click the “Calendar” icon, you will get the typical Outlook calendar. Lastly, clicking the SkyDrive icon takes you to your cloud based storage folder that you get by default for signing up with Outlook.com.
Below, you can see the “People” section of Outlook.com. This is basically your contacts folder, but it is extremely connected. Notice below that you can import contacts from Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Twitter, and more. Outlook.com has absolutely embraced social media.
The calendar is very much like what you’re used to with the desktop version of Outlook. You will see in the picture below, that you manage several views, such as day, month, and year. You can also see a nice “to-do list”. However, did you notice that the calendar says “Hotmail” and “Windows Live” at the top? Looks like there are still a few bugs to work out.
Below, you can see the Skydrive which is basically online storage. Highlighted in red, you can see that you are able to use online versions of Microsoft Office to create and edit documents right there in your Skydrive. By default you get 7GB of online storage for free.
Microsoft also produced a real quick walk-through video if you would like to take a couple of minutes to watch. It is quick, but really shows the new features well.
I think that Microsoft is swinging for the fences with this new line of products. Honestly, I believe that they know this is possibly a do or die situation, as they can’t help but notice that they have lost a lot of market share to Google and Apple. My hope is that they will be able to come into the market with rightly designed products with the right price. If they don’t, I am not so sure they will be a significant contender 10 years from now. However, I am very encouraged by the thought and consideration that they are putting into some of these new roll outs. I guess time will tell.