Outlook.com gets official, will replace Hotmail

Say goodbye to your old Hotmail account. Microsoft is moving fast to replace its long-standing webmail service with the new Outlook.com — a program that’s grown to 60 million active users during it six-month preview period.

Hotmail users who don’t make the switch themselves will be migrated to Outlook.com by the summer, the company said in a blog post Monday. Users will be able to keep their “@hotmail.com” addresses if they want, as well as their passwords, messages, folders, contacts and other settings. Users will have the option to switch to a “outlook.com” address but will not be required to, wrote Microsoft’s Outlook.com director of product management, David Law.

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But plenty will change. Outlook.com has a completely different look and navigation structure than Hotmail — one that builds off the cleaner, tile-based look of Microsoft’s latest operating system, Windows 8. There also are plenty of usability features Microsoft is touting in Outlook.com, such as the “Sweep” automation feature, which lets users move, delete or mark multiple inbox messages at once and by default, if desired.

Outlook.com accounts also will sync with SkyDrive accounts, in a Microsoft attempt to make it easy for users to share big files with each other. Other neat tricks the company has built into Outlook via its larger software ecosystem include automatically displaying photo attachments as a slideshow and the ability to view and edit Office documents from your inbox without having to install Office.

In addition to promoting its own product, Microsoft also is doubling down on its campaign against Google’s Gmail by running online, print and TV ads highlighting Gmail’s long-standing practice of using algorithms to scan the contents of e-mails to tailor its online ads to individual users. Google has done this since Gmail’s launch and stresses that humans are never scanning through your personal e-mail. Microsoft also serves ads based on information that users provide, as well as their search histories.

Both Google and Microsoft offer paid service options that do not serve advertising, though they are largely aimed at business customers.

 
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