Last week, Microsoft unveiled Outlook.com, a replacement for the venerable Hotmail that doesn’t look or act anything like the Hotmail you know.
Like Hotmail, Outlook.com is a free Web-based mail service — but with a hint of Metro-things to come.
Where Outlook.com fits in the Microsoft pantheon
R.I.P. Hotmail, 1996–2012.
It’s true. Microsoft is putting an end to Hotmail — not this week, not this month — maybe not even this year. But Outlook.com is the future for anyone who has a Hotmail account (which is, oh, about 99 percent of all the people I know).
Sabeer Bhatia and Jack Smith launched HoTMaiL on July 4, 1996. Microsoft saw it, liked it, and bought it in 1997 for $400 million. The exact number of current Hotmail subscribers is hard to come by, but it tops comScore’s (site) list of most-used, free, online e-mail services, with about 320 million active users in June — or about 36 percent of the worldwide market. Gmail has about a 31 percent share, but it’s growing fast at Hotmail’s expense.
You can see regional preferences. Although Gmail leads Hotmail in the U.S., Hotmail has twice as many users as Gmail in the U.K. But that’s changing, too. Yahoo has a 32 percent worldwide share, but it flatlined long ago. Overall e-mail use has nearly flattened as social-networking sites, instant messaging, texting, and VoIP/Skype pick up a growing portion of online, one-to-one communications.
Nevertheless, Microsoft now has a mind-numbing array of e-mail programs. You might use Outlook 2007 or 2010, included with current versions of Office; their successor, Outlook 2013, is now in preview. Microsoft still supports — in a manner of speaking — XP’s Outlook Express (which is nothing like Outlook) and OE’s look-alike, Vista Windows Mail. Then there’s the free, downloadable Windows Live Mail, which should soon have a name change as Microsoft kills off the “Windows Live” moniker. Windows 8 has a new Metro-style app called Mail.