Microsoft with a New Outlook
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Back in July 1996, when two young men, Sabeer Bhatia and Jack Smith, launched one of the first web-based email services, they never expected it to grow so big that it would be acquired by the software giant Microsoft. But then, it happened!!
HoTMaiL was acquired by Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) in 1997 for an estimated $400 million and was rechristened MSN Hotmail. Hotmail soon grew popular and the user base increased by leaps and bounds in a short span of time. By integrating services like anti-virus scanning for attachments, calendar service, built-in reading pane, rules, spelling check, search, web messenger, etc. along with some dramatic changes in user interface, Microsoft kept hotmail HOT for quite some time.
However the year 2004 changed the game for Hotmail. This was the year when Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) announced its own webmail service called Gmail. Gmail’s features such as greater storage space, speed and interface flexibility posed a great challenge to Hotmail’s very existence. With time many new features were included and Hotmail became Windows Live Hotmail.
That was the story of Hotmail so far. Now Microsoft has come up with a brand new webmail service Outlook.com, which will eventually replace Hotmail. It will place Outlook.com as a competitor against other webmail service providers like Gmail and Yahoo! Mail. Microsoft, these days, is obsessed with cloud services and is integrating all its latest products (Windows 8, Windows Phone and Office 365) with the cloud. Outlook is also a cloud-based email service.
Outlook.com is not the same as the existing Outlook desktop mail service client. Also it is different from the Outlook Web App connected to Exchange Server in an organization.
So what does the new Outlook.com come with?
1. Brand new interface: Outlook has a new enhanced and clean interface. It is less cluttered with the header having 60 percent fewer pixels and 30 percent more messages visible in your inbox than the webmail most people are used to.
2. Social media connection: Outlook.com is the first email service that is connected to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google, and also it will be integrated with Skype very soon. The email comes alive with photos of friends, recent status updates and Tweets that your friends have shared with you, the ability to chat and video call - all powered by an always up-to-date contact list that is connected to your social networks.
3. Unified Experience: Outlook.com also uses Exchange ActiveSync. It powers your mail, calendar and people experience on your smartphone, tablet, and the new Outlook 2013 Preview thus giving you a unified experience.
4. Automatic message sorting: The powerful sort functionality helps Outlook.com arrange messages from contacts, social updates, newsletters and shipping updates. With the Sweep features one can move, delete and set up powerful rules in a few, simple clicks.
5. Office Web Apps: This has been a good enhancement for people who use email to share photos and work together on documents. One can now view and edit attachments without leaving the inbox with the new Office Web Apps, which include Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote.
6. SkyDrive: With the SkyDrive it is now possible to attach files of any size. Sending photos, documents, or just about any other file is all the more fun now.
Now why are we discussing the features of Outlook.com here? Because these features are the ones that differentiate and also talk about the strength of the new webmail from the creator of Windows. This also shows that Microsoft is madly and deeply in love with the cloud and social networks.
Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) has been very successful in selling smart phones and tablets however it could not establish itself in the social network arena. Hence Apple has been in talks with Twitter to make a strategic investment in it. If that happens they will form a strong partnership and be able to stand against the fierce competition from Facebook and Google. With iCloud, Apple has been leading in the cloud services business as well. iCloud acts as a data syncing center for email, contacts, calendars, bookmarks, notes, to-do lists, and other data replacing Apple's MobileMe service.
Yahoo! (NASDAQ: YHOO) is also preparing itself in the cloud services area. One of the early attempts was to reinvent Yahoo! Mail in the year 2011. The revised Yahoo! Mail was Yahoo's shot to take back some of the users it lost to chief rivals Google Gmail and Microsoft Windows Live Hotmail. A brand new user interface along other features like social networking, security and media viewing capabilities gave Yahoo! an opportunity to come back in the competition.
Microsoft is also preparing itself for the future war with competitors like Apple, Google, Yahoo!, etc. in the cloud services and social netowrking space.
Will it be possible for the legendary consumer software czar to conquer the future? With weapons like Windows 8, Azure, Intune, Office 365, Surface, SkyDrive, Outlook.com, etc. in its armory, will Microsoft get a lion’s share of the next generation business or will the name just fade into obscurity?
Only time will tell. Let’s wait and watch…
shinerulz has no positions in the stocks mentioned above. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Google, and Microsoft. Motley Fool newsletter services recommend Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo!. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.If you have questions about this post or the Fool’s blog network, click here for information.