Opinion Brief

Microsoft's Hotmail reboot: Will the new Outlook convert Gmail users?

A long-forgotten webmail service gets a Windows 8-style facelift, and tech junkies hail its beauty, simplicity, and focus on privacy

So long, Hotmail. Microsoft gave the stodgy email service a complete overhaul on Tuesday, rebranding the portal as Outlook.com. The renovated service boasts a minimalist interface that borrows heavily from the tile-driven design of Windows 8. Facebook Chat and Skype's industry-leading video calls will be built into Outlook, and users can open Microsoft Office files directly in web versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Plenty of good addresses with the suffix @outlook.com are still up for grabs, and existing @hotmail users will get to keep their old addresses if they want. Another perk: Unlike Gmail, Microsoft promises that it won't scan your inbox for keywords to deliver you targeted ads. "Email remains a very personal experience," says Microsoft's Chris Jones. "We know that it's important for people to feel like they're in control of what information is used, their privacy, and how their email is connected with other services." Will the new Outlook woo fed-up Gmailers?

It just might: Hotmail spent a decade as a punchline, says Sam Biddle at Gizmodo. But out of nowhere, Microsoft "just pulled off the biggest victory in the inbox game since Gmail," and it might be enough to get you to ditch Google. The new Outlook is pretty, refreshing, and chock full of useful features. If you're wary of Google's overreaching ads and want a "beautiful, life-helping mail," consider making the switch — if you act quickly, you might even get to use your real name."Microsoft did the impossible: The new Hotmail is fantastic"

No. Gmail is still more robust: "Outlook.com doesn't have anything directly comparable to Gmail's priority inbox," says Harry McCracken at TIME. And more broadly, Gmail has a much greater number of compelling features, thanks mostly to Gmail Labs, which lets users install mail filters and webmail apps. At this point, Outlook is simply "not a rich platform for customization," which won't sit well with power users. "I don't have any immediate plan to dump Gmail as my primary email.""Microsoft's fresh new Outlook on webmail" 

But Microsoft is making the switch easy: Outlook has a lot of little things going for it, like the ability to attach large files that exceed 25 MB, or easily filter out newsletters and other inbox clutter, says Mark Spoonauer at Laptop Mag. But one of the best selling points is the ability to easily forward your Gmail account's inbox to Outlook.com with a few simple clicks. In other words: You can use Outlook's interface with your Gmail address. "Bottom line: We can easily see people ditching Gmail for Outlook.com.""Outlook.com hands-on: Microsoft's Gmail and clutter killer"

Watch a demonstration below:

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