Here’s one less reason for you to be “stuck” on GMail, as Douglas Pearce on the Outlook Blog put it. In the announcement on May 14, Microsoft said they are enabling Outlook.com users to chat with their Google contacts just like they do today with Messenger and Facebook contacts. This, they say, would make it easier for GMail users to switch over to Outlook.com.
As you may know, Outlook.com is in fact a suite of consumer web apps in the form of Outlook.com email, Outlook.com calendar (which was recently updated to be more Metro-styled), SkyDrive personal cloud storage, and People, which is the “universal address book”. The reason I say People is a universal address book is that it allows you to connect various services like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter and link identities across these services and your actual address book to create a unified contact. That way, you can see everything about a contact all in one place — Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn updates. In addition, it also allows you to seamlessly chat with your contacts via the messaging pane in Outlook.com email, and when collaborating with someone in SkyDrive via Office Web Apps.
In addition to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and others, Outlook.com also supported Google Contacts to be linked to your Microsoft account. What the Outlook.com team has done is that starting today, you can not just see the Google Contacts but actually chat with them in the messenger pane just like you do with your Messenger/Facebook contacts. When Windows Live ID (what then became Microsoft account) enabled linking to Google for contacts, I had speculated that Google Talk/Chat may not be far away. It took a while since then, but it has materialized now.
This is a great move by Microsoft. Not only can they claim “openness” which Google seems to tout all the time, they are actually reducing the friction of switching over from GMail to Outlook.com. In the new form of being a “Devices and Services” company, Microsoft is best served when they have a large user base and taking “market share” away from Google is always a nice thing for Microsoft.
Do you use GMail? Would this make you consider switching? Let me know in the comments.
Image from Office Blogs.