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Windows_Aug29_CIn the mid 2000s Microsoft was more or less stagnant. Windows, despite numerous releases, still looked more or less the same, and Office hadn’t received a decent upgrade in a long time. Things looked grim, but Microsoft has managed to turn things around. Windows 8 and related products are a drastic departure from the Microsoft look, even Hotmail has had a makeover.

In late July Microsoft quickly announced and released @outlook.com, their new cloud based email service. If a Web based email service from Microsoft sounds familar, it is, as Outlook.com is a reinvented and drastically improved version of Hotmail.

Outlook.com has completely ditched the clunky, outdated layout Microsoft has used for Hotmail for years and released something that looks 100% modern, and maybe even a little spaceage. The general opinion is that it looks fantastic. For Gmail users, it looks instantly familiar, with files and folders on the left-hand side of the window, your emails in the center and addons on the right-hand side of the screen.

Hold on, isn’t that exactly the same as Gmail? Yes, and for a reason: it works really, really well. However, Outlook.com does improve on Gmail with integration of a large number of features including:

  • Integration with Microsoft Office. All documents sent to you can be viewed and edited online.
  • Integration with SkyDrive. When you click the Outlook box at the top of the window, a drop-down menu opens with the ability to shift to your SkyDrive. This makes it easier to switch and share files between the two services. This also allows you to share larger files that don’t have to be sent via email, slowing down delivery. Just share the file on SkyDrive and link to it in the email.
  • Synchronized contacts. You can instantly synchronize your Facebook and LinkedIn contacts and chat with them directly from Outlook.com.
  • Skype. Experts wondered what Microsoft would do with Skype when they bought it last year. The answer is: integrate it with Outlook.com. While it isn’t active yet, Microsoft has noted it should be part of Outlook.com soon. When it’s activated, you’ll be able to call and chat with your Outlook.com contacts via Skype, directly from the Inbox. There will be no need to install Skype on systems.
  • Mobile support. You can access your account on nearly any mobile device that can connect to the Internet.

How do I get an Outlook.com account?
If you’re interested in getting an outlook.com account, you can sign up for free at outlook.com. If you have an existing Hotmail account you can log in, select Options followed by Upgrade. All your contacts, emails, password and rules will be transferred over.

Outlook.com looks like a viable competitor to Gmail, and because it’s a Microsoft product, it’s a near certainty that it will be a heavily supported platform that can and will attract many businesses and other organizations. If you’re interested in learning more about Outlook.com, please contact us.

Published on 30th August 2012 by Jeanne DeWitt.

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