Just when we thought that web mail services were all about Google's Gmail and Yahoo, Microsoft redesigned its ageing Hotmail.com as Outlook.com, considered the biggest improvement in its email service in eight years.
Microsoft bought Hotmail from the entrepreneurs, Sabeer Bhatia and Jack Smith, for a reported a $400 million in 1997 – a full decade before Google mail arrived on the email scene. But Gmail's bigger storage capacity and neatly designed interfaces wooed users - over 425 million people across the globe have a Gmail account. The fact that Gmail remains a constantly evolving product explains why it's so popular today.
The new Outlook.com is in no way related to Microsoft's corporate desktop email and calendar program. Instead, Outlook.com's clean design is closer to the simplicity of Windows Phone 7 and Windows 8's Metro (tiled) interface. The new Outlook.com does not disappoint, but before you get ready to create a new email id, here's what you should know:
User gets unlimited storage, and those with existing hotmail.com, live.com ids can switch to Outlook.com with the existing address
Free apps like Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote allow users to view and edit attachments without leaving the inbox.
Automatic folder feature helps organise and prioritise users' inboxes in a way that can work in virtually any type of desktop or mobile email client
Outlook.com does not personalise ads by looking at the email content (like Gmail does). What one would see is generic ads displayed on the right-hand sidebar of the inbox.
Users can get rid of spam that escapes from the spam filter by restricting emails from a specific person or from an entire domain
By specifying domain names (like @XYZ.org or @ABC.com) or individual email addresses and messages from these blacklisted address will be automatically deleted
Displays a contact's Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn (and soon Skype) profiles in a sidebar, should the user give Outlook access to these accounts. Users can also post updates on Twitter and write on someone's Facebook wall, directly from Outlook.com. You can also do Facebook chat within Outlook.com
Security vendor Sophos cites that Outlook.com accounts allow passwords of up to 16 characters, which does limit the account security
A user gets up to 10GB of free storage space. Additional storage can be bought for fees starting at $3
Google Docs (Word, PDF, Excel, etc) is embedded within Gmail. Users can upload, edit or view documents on Google Drive, integrated within the Gmail
If a contact is online in either Gmail or Google Talk, one can chat right from Gmail. Turning emails into Google Calendar events is just a click away
Gmail allows as many as 200 characters for password. Longer passwords are harder to crack
Google employs a standard called IMAP that lets you use pretty much any email client for offline mail synchronisation to computers and phones. Outlook.com requires only Microsoft's Exchange ActiveSync
To sort emails, simply drag a label from Labels list and drop it onto a message body. Users also have the option to use webmail themes to liven up the screen or create customised themes
Last year, Gmail shifted from text-based buttons to an icon-only design, which can be confusing to some users
Comes with unlimited storage for emails and attachments, which means there's no fear of running out of space
Optimised for the mobile and hand-held browsing from iPhone, and Android phones. Supports HTML5 webmail for iPhone.
Yahoo's inbox offers tabbed views - anything like read, reply, search mail will open a new tab
Yahoo Mail allows up to 32 characters for a password which is better than Outlook.com
It claims to employ the latest SpamGuard technology and new anti-phishing platform that reduces spam by as much as 60 per cent and helps protect users from email hijackers and unwanted messages
In-built apps allow editing pictures or send big files/attachments easily. It also allows users to update their Facebook status from within inbox
You cannot label messages freely (and with multiple tags) or set up smart folders to sort mail.