Microsoft has struggled against Gmail in the email sector for years, something Microsoft hopes to remedy with the release of Outlook.com, the company’s answer to its own aging Hotmail.com service.
Launched with a beautifully crafted user interface Outlook.com looks more like a Google product than a Microsoft platform. The moment users log into the Outlook.com platform they will notice a sparse screen that showcases their email messages and basic email functions. Microsoft has not exactly reinvented the wheel with their output, however the clean interface makes email navigation a breeze and the push of a button (inbox, spam, trash) quickly takes users to their desired location. Much like Gmail.com the program is based on simplicity and therefore leaves little to the imagination.
One big change for Microsoft is the creation of a solid socially integrated email platform. Take a look at the right side of each email and your contacts information is displayed. Users now see a profile photo (when available) alongside posts from your contacts Facebook and Twitter accounts. Along with the ability to comment on those posts right from inside your Outlook.com account. Gmail also offers social integration but its Google+ platform is used by less contacts which limits its capabilities. Google on the other hand offers Hangout chats from within email windows and its Gchat feature still allows for better instantaneous conversation. If Outlook integrates some type of video and chat platform it will win the social media integration battle for the time being.
When it comes to in-email ads Microsoft has finally figured out that nobody likes large display ads, unlike Hotmail the Outlook.com platform now features text ads to the right of emails, much in the same way ads are broken up by Gmail. One feature I really appreciate is that each text ad block appears in its own small advertiser based box, allowing for differentiation of ads. The best part about the system is that ads disappear when an individual email is selected, allowing users to easily view a persons social network information in place of block ads.
In terms of security measures Outlook.com is still in preview mode and is severely lacking on the security front. While Gmail offers two-factor authentication Outlook.com offers no additional security measures at this time, thus making Outlook.com in need of a major facelift.
One of the best features now offered by Outlook.com is a new “top nav” feature which brings up Microsoft “Live Tiles” such as Word, Powerpoint, Skydrive and other Microsoft cloud products. While there are not many Live Tiles available at this time more will come online as they are released by Microsoft. Here’s a great video explaining Live Tiles:
When it comes to actual use both Outlook.com and Gmail.com stick to the basic tenants of email platform creation — simply design, easy to navigate folders and the ability to stay connected socially.
This email battle could come down to personal preference for design and in my mind Gmail still holds the design and useability crown.
[Image via Wikinoticia]