Microsoft Makes Bold Move To Replace Hotmail With Web-Based Outlook
Peter Suciu for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
On Tuesday, Microsoft announced its browser-based Outlook e-mail service has ended its preview phase and will now be available globally. The web-based Outlook.com was introduced last July, and is being touted as the boldest email move since Google launched Gmail back in 2004.
Microsoft’s Outlook.com is also expected to replace its Hotmail web-based email service, which it acquired way back in 1997 and which never managed to achieve the hoped-for dominance in the free email space.
According to online reports, the Hotmail name won’t entirely disappear even as Outlook.com becomes Microsoft’s only free consumer e-mail offering. Current Hotmail users will be able to make the switch but continue to use the “@Hotmail” address, as well as claim an “@Outlook.com” alias to boot. Those users who don’t voluntarily make the switch will be upgraded to the new product in waves that will begin this week. That process is expected to be completed by this summer.
“The upgrade is seamless and instant for people who use Hotmail. Everything from their @hotmail.com email address, password, messages, folders, contacts, rules, vacation replies, etc. will stay the same, with no disruption in service,” David Law, director of product management for Outlook.com, told TG Daily.
Since making its debut last July, Outlook.com has attracted some 60 million users, but that is still just a fraction of what Microsoft hopes to achieve as the company looks to launch its largest marketing campaign to date for an e-mail service. The Washington Post reported Outlook.com will be featured in ads running on primetime TV, on radio stations, websites, billboards and buses. The Redmond-based software giant is expected to spend somewhere between $30 million and $90 million on the Outlook campaign, which will reportedly run for at least three months.
This campaign will likely highlight some of the features Outlook.com has to offer that Hotmail doesn’t, including Skydrive integration and Sweep, which allows messages to be moved, deleted or archived en masse. The campaign is already being compared to Microsoft’s holiday “Scroogled” campaign, which Microsoft ran during the holidays alleging that Google’s searches included paid sponsors.
It could take quite the campaign however to chip away at Google’s dominance in email, as its Gmail service has more than 425 million account holders, including a large base of mobile device users. Yahoo comes in second place with 293 million users, while Hotmail currently ranks third with 267 million users, which includes a 16 percent decline from the previous year.
This is not the only big change Microsoft is making in the first quarter of 2013. Last week the company announced existing Windows Live Messenger users would need to upgrade to Skype, the Voice-Over-IP (VoIP) service it acquired in 2008 for $8.5 billion. Skype has seen its traffic grow by 44 percent, and increased traffic last year by twice the amount of all international carriers combined. Skype calls now account for about a third of all global phone traffic.
In addition to the switch from Windows Messenger, Microsoft also announced last week it would launch Skype Video Messages for Mac, iPhone and Android, with a PC version to come in April. The battle at the edge of the communication frontier appears to be in full swing.