Microsoft revamps, renames Hotmail

2012-08-01 08:29

Seattle - Microsoft unveiled a revamped, Facebook-friendly version of its free, online e-mail service on Tuesday in an attempt to reverse market share losses to Google's fast-growing Gmail.

The world's largest software company is renaming its Hotmail service, giving it a sharp new look, social network links and new features for handling the tide of junk and mass mail that swamps many users.

Hotmail was still the world's largest online mail service as of June, according to the latest comScore figures available, with 324 million users, or about 36% of the global market.

But it is losing customers to Google's Gmail, the fastest-growing rival, which now has about 31% of the market. Yahoo Mail is static with about 32%.

In a bid to recapture growth, Microsoft is renaming the service, a name familiar to most corporate workers who use Microsoft's Office e-mail application, and sprucing up the whole experience. Hotmail users will be prompted to switch over to the new service over the next few months.


Hotmail, launched in 1996, was one of the first online e-mail services, but it has not been updated by Microsoft for eight years.

"A lot has changed in the last eight years, and we think it's time for a fresh look at e-mail," Chris Jones, Microsoft's corporate vice president of Windows Live, said in a blog post.

The new look is clean and uncluttered, featuring lots of white space, reminiscent of Google's recent makeover of Gmail. Relatively unobtrusive advertisements appear in a column to the right of the screen when looking at folders. They do not appear when a message is open.

Users can link up with their Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ accounts, to see the latest updates from friends and contacts. Online chat is available via Facebook.

Newsletters, offers, daily deals and social updates make up over 80% of a typical inbox, according to Microsoft's own research. To help combat that overflow, the new service automatically detects mass messages and puts them in separate folders. Users can customise the process to sort mail any way they want to.

The new mail service also allows easy use of Microsoft's internet-based products, such as SkyDrive for storing documents, Office Web Apps for working away from a PC and will eventually have Skype video chat built in.

"This is about the battle of where people will make their communication home," said Al Hilwa, an analyst at tech research firm IDC. "The big online players are connecting their online assets together and hoping to provide convenience and functionality of a one-stop-shop of cloud services."

The success of Microsoft's new service will depend on whether it can develop it quickly enough "to keep up with a brutally fast Google and a potentially re-invigorated Yahoo", said Hilwa.

Users can access the service online here. Microsoft said the service is currently a "preview", meaning more features will likely be added before the final version is fully launched.

  • kitneyi - 2012-08-01 08:57

    What happened to all the other things that Microsoft has renamed? - FAIL

      preshen.govender.90 - 2012-08-02 13:39

      the Zune

  • rudie.stoltz - 2012-08-01 08:59

    useless ass

  • Kevin - 2012-08-01 09:02

    Just a pty they completely scr3w3d up Messenger recently. It is now more bloated than a South African politician after 10 years on the gravy train

  • Kevin - 2012-08-01 09:05

    Went to have a look at it. Gmail is still streets ahead!

      thando.gqabaza - 2012-08-01 11:50

      The new GMail interface is a mess. I'm glad there's now competition to give Google a wake up

  • - 2012-08-01 09:37

    If i have to re-register my hotmail account, I would rather move to G-mail

      lydonmcg - 2012-08-01 10:50

      Well you don't.

  • Zithelo - 2012-08-01 11:13

    finally. just when i was about to join gmail

  • mikenortje - 2012-08-01 13:29

    and Yahoo fast becoming a joke!!! have been unable to upload / download an attachement for over a month now ..... no answer from the tech guys at Yahoo

  • leanne.zwiegers - 2012-08-01 15:37

    Personally....Hotmail is far better. My gmail account has been hacked twice since having it setup beginning last year. Also the gmail app for my smart phone sucks

  • pwcrook - 2012-08-02 10:59

    Starting to think Microsoft might just make a come back - very interesting how it is co-operating with other web services, rather than punting its own products... I think MS is going to change its whole game plan, and its about bloody time...

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