15th Dec 2012
Microsoft announced Outlook.com a few months ago as the successor to Hotmail. The new service is about more than email, as we learnt from Brian Hall, General Manager of Outlook.com. We spoke about the Outlook.com service, how Microsoft plans to popularise it, and how the shift will affect Hotmail users. Brian shared some details about the impending demise of Hotmail, and what will happen to the Windows Live Messenger service.
Why Outlook.com? Why not continue with an enhanced Hotmail.com — a brand that has been well-known for a decade?
Hotmail is well-known as an email brand, but also has some baggage as a brand. This is partly because five or six years ago, Hotmail wasn't as good as it needed to be, particularly on the storage and mobile front. So we've updated not only on the value Hotmail brings, but also on how we move to a world where email from Microsoft and free web mail compete.
Outlook as a brand, too, is well-known as a high quality email experience from Microsoft, and adds a lot of very professional attributes to it. So we felt like starting anew, doing something more professional and serious. We wanted people to know that this email is from Microsoft. As a matter of fact, we found that less than 50% of people know that Hotmail.com is from Microsoft. This means that many of the dynamics of how you connect together Microsoft services, and how you connect two devices together, would be harder if we had to educate people that these are part of the Microsoft ecosystem.
So this is going to be the end of Hotmail.com in favour of Outlook.com? Just like Windows Live Messenger will end up in favour of Skype? Why is the Live brand being killed off?
There are three parts to that. First off, people will be able to continue using Hotmail.com addresses. If I have a Hotmail address, when I upgrade to Outlook, I can choose to not get a new address and continue using my @Hotmail.com address like before — only that I will be logging on to Outlook.com. We won't have an email service called Hotmail anymore, just like we won't have a messenger service called Windows Live Messenger anymore. We've chosen to select specific brands that will give the premier experience for email or for keeping in touch with people.
The biggest reason why the "Live" concept will no longer be there is that Live used to serve as a service connection layer to Windows devices and apps such as Office. But today everyone expects their new device to be natively well-connected, natively powered by excellent services. The services are just as much a part of the experience as the hardware is. So, having a separate concept for services really doesn't make sense. It doesn't help people recognise the value of Windows or Office or Windows Phone.
What does Outlook.com mean to a user who is currently using Hotmail.com?
Outlook.com is a mail service from Microsoft, which takes the best of Hotmail, the best of Exchange, and the best of Outlook — and brings it to the consumer.
What are Microsof'ts plans regarding competition from Gmail? What sets Outlook.com apart?
There are a few things that we think are extraordinary about Outlook. The first is its brand new email service that has been done from the ground up, including the design and the architecture, to work with a world of devices. Outlook, therefore, looks and works beautifully on mobile phones, laptops, desktops, and tablets. There is a touch version and a keyboard version to suit the environment in which it is used. The second thing is that Outlook helps connects you with people by connecting with the networks that you actually use. These are connections with Twitter, Facebook, and soon with Skype, so that you can chat with people, you can see their pictures in the contact list. Your contacts are always up to date and you don't need to edit contacts all the time.
Third, we worked to create a smart system that will let you filter mail really well, particularly with Office documents: You can open and edit document attachments right through the web interface without having to install the Office application. Fourth, people will appreciate that Outlook keeps your data private. It does not scan your personal emails in order to serve you advertisements. In fact, Outlook emails are completely ad-free; you will not see an ad anywhere.
I should add that we look at the adoption of Office 2013 as well as Windows 8 and Windows Phone as key accelerators for people taking to Outlook.
When we upgrade the Hotmail base to Outlook, it will create a large user base for word-of-mouth publicity. We consider this very important in popularising the service. Secondly, as people get Windows Phone, Windows 8, and the new Office, they will be encouraged to give Outlook a try and that will get them to understand it well. We are also going to continue targeted marketing to Gmail users to let them know about the advantages of Outlook.com.
So people will be able to sign into their Windows Phone using their Outlook.com email instead of the Hotmail one, right?
Correct. You can sign into your new Windows Phone or Windows 8 PC and find that all your emails and contacts (including those connected to Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn) will automatically come to the device. All your SkyDrive files will also be available.
Can you tell us about future expansion plans for Outlook.com? Perhaps new features?
We've been on a very rapid release schedule for Outlook. One of the big and exciting releases we are looking forward to is adding Skype support. This will be done via a plug-in that will enable voice and video chat between Outlook and Skype users right through the browser. We have a bunch of other features that we are working on and are very excited about, but we are not disclosing. We have been releasing periodic updates — we introduced certain features that are there in Gmail, such as the archive feature and keyboard shortcuts that make things faster. We are not giving specific timeframes for the next release, but it will be sooner rather than later.
Will the introduction of Outlook change the way we log into the next Xbox?
I will not talk about the upcoming Xbox. I can only talk about what is available today.
Interview With Brian Hall Of Outlook.com: "Hotmail has some baggage as a brand"
Brian talks about why to switch to Outlook.com, the eventual demise of Hotmail, and Microsoft's plans to compete in a free webmail world.
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