Outlook.com

Outlook.com         

Outlook is Microsoft’s new and improved version of Hotmail that takes the best bits and pieces of Hotmail, Microsoft Exchange and the Metro UI from Windows Phone 7 and also Windows 8.  Outlook works as a webmail provider for individual users or for business professionals.  Microsoft’s improved version of Outlook is expected to compete head to head with Google’s Gmail.

We don’t like to take sides so we will be discussing Google’s Gmail in a following article but what follows are a few reasons why Outlook is preferred by some users over Gmail.

1. Email Organization

Outlook.com attempts to sort your mail for you by automatically creating virtual folders for common stuff like email newsletters, Facebook and Twitter alerts, and other repetitive messages that can end up burying more important emails from people you need to correspond with.  The virtual folder system organizes emails using algorithms, so as a result you might have to tweak these settings to make sure all the emails end up in the proper folders. Microsoft, in an effort to aid in this process has tried to streamline the process of setting up your own inbox rules.

Outlook.com offers Sweep features where you can move, delete and set up rules to organize your email in a few clicks. This feature allows you to quickly get to the email you really need to access and filter the emails that are not immediately critical.

Another convenient email management feature in Outlook.com is that you can hover over a message and you will see small gray icons for marking a message as unread, flagging it, or deleting it completely.  Outlook.com also allows you to customize the functions you want to see when you hover over the messages.  Outlook.com expands upon this feature by adding where hovering your mouse over the sender’s name shows a pop-up menu with commands to send an e-mail to the contact, schedule a cleanup (more on that later), finding all e-mails from that sender, moving those messages, or deleting them completely.

These organizational features show that Microsoft is dedicated to providing an easy to use interface for the user.  Outlook’s email will help the user have access to multiple different platforms and easily organize information to increase user efficiency.

2. Mobility

Microsoft’s Outlook.com improved the webmail service by optimizing it for today’s mobile world.  People approach email and email organization differently when they use mobile devices than on their computers.  Email management features are not as heavily used on mobile devices as they are on actual computers.

With that in mind, Microsoft used the previously mentioned automatic folder feature as a way of helping to organize and prioritize users’ inboxes in a way that can work on virtually any type of desktop or mobile email client.

Most people on mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets use the native email client.  With that in mind Microsoft wanted to make sure Outlook.com users were able to work with any inbox.

 

Microsoft is determined on delivering a high quality and easy to use mobile web experience. In fact, the company is so focused on the native client and mobile web experience of Outlook.com that it does not have plans to build an app for Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 as it works seamlessly with the native client.

On the other hand Microsoft is working on an Android app, because Android devices are less likely to have an Exchange ActiveSync client.

3. Protect Your Privacy!

Gmail has long been known to use a technique called text mining on your emails and it then uses that data to implement targeted ads.  This text mining process freaks some people out when they realize that Google is “reading their mail.” This is a major concern for business professionals and others who use email to exchange potentially valuable or sensitive information.

Microsoft capitalized on this uneasiness resulting from Google’s text mining practices.  Microsoft stands by the current policy that Outlook.com will not perform text mining on your inbox, and still offer its service for free and with “virtually unlimited storage”, which is a justification that Google uses to perform the text mining.

 

“We don’t scan your email content or attachments and sell this information to advertisers or any other company, and we don’t show ads in personal conversations,” one of Microsoft’s engineers stated.

Outlook.com will still have ads; they will reside on the right-column of the main inbox screen.  However there will be no ads on the individual messages. Also, these ads will have some element of targeting toward a specific consumer based on what Microsoft knows about you in general, but Microsoft will not use any of the content within your individual messages to get this data.

4. Social Integration

Gmail uses a social media integration plug in called Rapportive.  This plug in fills the right column in Gmail with contact information about the person you contacting via email. Rapportive pulls information from LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook (if you have ever logged in to any of these services).  This social media integration tool will even show the LinkedIn job title and latest status updates from the contact you are emailing.

Microsoft has taken this kind of functionality and built it directly into Outlook.com, filling the right column of its message screen with this same kind of social contact data, but displaying it in a simpler, more streamlined way that is similar to the Metro UI style. Outlook.com does not show quite as much data as Google’s Rapportive.

The advantage of having this info and links to social media is that you always have the most up-to-date contact information for friends, family and other contacts, if they are good about updating their profiles. The new Outlook combines the various profiles and if you have contacts that appear in multiple locations, you can manually link or unlink these social media platforms as you need.

Microsoft has taken social integration a step further with Outlook.com.  You can not only view people in your social networks from within Outlook.com and see their latest updates, but from the “People hub” you can also respond to status updates on Twitter and write on someone’s Facebook wall, all directly from Outlook.com. You can even do a Facebook chat from within Outlook.com.  Also, the instant messaging functionality itself is another strong feature of Outlook.com.

Bottom Line

Microsoft has focused on several key priorities for Outlook.com.  These include:

  • A clean and easy to use UI design for tablets and all mobile and computing devices.
  • Connect-ability with all the services you use such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn.
  • Seamless integration with with Microsoft Office and SkyDrive.
  • Protecting your privacy.

Designed as a replacement to Hotmail, Outlook.com, is a free browser-based service with a strikingly simple interface, Skydrive and social media integration, and lots of tweaks that improve the user experience. Microsoft’s promise of “virtually unlimited” storage should be able to accommodate most any kind of writer and media consumer. Outlook.com brings plenty to the table to compete against Google’s Gmail, and if Microsoft can deliver on its spam filtering and Skype capability promises, it may even be worth a switch to many users.

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