Microsoft launched Outlook.com today, replacing Hotmail and Windows Live email services with a minimalist interface that shames Google’s Gmail.
The new Outlook offers email, contacts, calendar and file storage in one interface. The overhaul is only halfway finished, but it looks great and shows what nice clean and simple design can look like.
When a user surfs over to Outlook.com the site offers to let him or her sign up for a new email address. If the user already has a Live.com, Xbox Live, Windows Phone or Hotmail account, just use that to log into the service and it populates with the user’s old data.
The mail user interface looks like what might result if Gmail and Windows 8 spawned a web mail service. The typical left hand folders, center content and right column of ads looks familiar.
Click the upper left corner to see the other services associated with the service. Click on each icon to go to that area of Outlook.com. The “People” interface offers all the Contact details in the account.
Calendar and Skydrive don’t sport the same clean updated interface. I’m guessing Microsoft didn’t quite finish the makeover, so they didn’t turn on those two sites yet.
If a user wants to customize the look, hit the Settings button next to the user account icon in the upper right corner. Users can change the color and look of the site.
I really like the user interface. In fact I’m tempted to replace Gmail with Outlook.com. Anyone can by hitting the More mail settings link in the customization settings drop down mention before. The second item on the resulting page lets me send and receive mail from other accounts using POP email. It also allows the user to send mail with other addresses as an alias.
Speaking of using other accounts, the “People” page lets the user import contacts from other services including Facebook, Google, LinkedIn and Twitter. It also allows importing of contacts from a data file.
When the Calendar and Skydrive sites get the update, coming soon according to The Verge, the service will turn into a very attractive and useful alternative to Gmail and Google Apps. Microsoft should link this to their Office 365 site and give users an all-in-one tool just like Google Apps.