Goodbye Hotmail, hello Outlook.com. Microsoft has launched a preview of its new web-based e-mail service, and it looks... surprisingly not-awful. Microsoft has streamlined the interface extensively and applied a fresh coat of Metro paint, so that nothing of the old service seems to remain. The result feels like a breath of fresh air.
Microsoft's promo video takes on Gmail and highlights some of Outlook.com's key features, like Skype integration and a fancy photo gallery. It's a little unsettling to see Microsoft advocating simplicity in design, but I think I like it:
Another, longer video offers a more complete walkthrough of Outlook.com's various features. Take a look:
You can give the new service a try yourself by heading to Outlook.com and signing in with your Windows Live or Hotmail credentials. All your old Hotmail messages should be waiting for you. Oh, and don't worry; you can go back to the old interface anytime by going through the gear menu in the upper right.
I'm still not ready to give up on Gmail and its excellent Priority Inbox system, but Outlook.com definitely seems like a compelling alternative. I like the clean interface, the slick Metro animations, the fact that the ads don't scan your personal messages, and the way it interfaces with existing social networks instead of shoving Google+ down your throat. The smart filtering that can identify newsletters, social network notices, shipping updates, and so forth looks pretty slick, as well. If I had one complaint, it would be that the interface seems a little bland. Outlook.com still feels like it's leagues ahead of the old Hotmail, though.