Microsoft announced this week that they are replacing their long running Hotmail service with Outlook.com. Don’t stress if you have a Hotmail account. It will not disappear. They are changing the service only and will phase out the Hotmail interface in favour of a new (more touch orientated) Outlook.com interface.
What does this mean for all of us using Hotmail accounts today?
You can now log on to the completely new, feature filled new webmail service from Microsoft with your Hotmail account details. You can also have e-mail aliases.
Why create an alias? Some people like to use multiple addresses for different things. For example, you might use one address for a job search and a different one for online shopping. That way, messages sent to those addresses can be kept in a separate folder.
New features we like.
Although you this was available in the Hotmail (live.com) accounts, the have made it super simple to connect your social networking accounts to your outlook.com account. This imports all your friends\connections into your People (contacts section). This means we don’t have to log into any of these services to find an e-mail address, telephone number. If you are synchronizing the service with your smart-phone it will also push and pull your contacts into the People section and you can have all your contacts in one place. Services supported today include Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Flickr. We are sure they will add more in the coming months.
This is clearly Microsoft’s way of providing a hub where you can view and manage all your social media accounts. We believe they are on the right track here, although many have tried this and failed.
As mentioned above we love the alias feature, which means not having to log into multiple accounts to see e-mails in separate accounts.
It can also sync with your Facebook and Twitter accounts to grab photos, so everything’s always up to date and you don’t have to input it all yourself.
The “Quick Actions” feature, that shows you actions like reply or delete when you hover over a message—and you can customize which actions show up (of course, keyboard shortcuts would still be faster).
They have stepped up their game (compared to Gmail) by changing the interface to a Metro (Windows 8) look, designed for touch. They have also brought the in-line reply view to replying to e-mails as seen in the Outlook 2013 Preview. This is definitely one of our favourite features. You can very quickly create labels for organising your messages and they have some nifty keyboard shortcuts built in if you want to add some more skills to your muscle memory.
The People (contacts) view is a stunning interface for showing contacts (Hotmail, Twitter, Facebook, Messenger, etc.) and providing you quick links to their profiles on social media. We have seen this in the Windows 8 metro People App and love it.
The Calendar and Skydrive interfaces are still in the old Hotmail “style”, but we expect them to update that soon. to the flatter Metro look.
Outlook.com is now in beta, but this should not deter you from signing up (or signing in with your Hotmail) account and getting your outlook.com address.
We like the direction this is moving in. It’s cleaner, more intuitive and save us time by providing a central hub for communications. We realise that this has been tried before (thinking back to Google Wave, etc.) but only time will tell if consumers will make the effort to change. A change that we believe is worth it.