Microsoft’s free Hotmail email service has been around for years, though it appears the Redmond, Washington-based firm is getting ready to replace it with something altogether new. Right now Microsoft is reportedly offering Hotmail users the opportunity to try out Outlook.com, which adds touchscreen features and social networking functionality to the traditional Hotmail experience.
The first time you boot up Outlook.com, the visual update will be immediately clear. This sure doesn’t look your daddy’s Hotmail, with Microsoft giving the service a look and feel very similar to that seen in early versions of the company’s soon-to-be-released Windows 8 operating system.
Also new to the formula: lots of touchscreen functionality, with Microsoft making it easier than ever before to start and send emails without the use of a keyboard and mouse. Clearly Microsoft recognizes that the next wave of email users will be using touch-enabled devices like tablets and smartphones.
And when that next generation isn’t sending emails, it will almost certainly be interacting with friends and family via Facebook or Twitter. Given that inevitability, Microsoft has made social networking a key part of the new Outlook.com service. When a user opens an email sent from a contact, they’ll not only see the standard text, but will also be able to view the person’s social networking profile picture and their most recent status updates.
For those users who hate dealing with all the advertising that usually comes with a free email service, Microsoft is also limiting ads to small text-based windows. In fact, users can even replace the adverts with a new instant messaging feature.
If you’re a little alarmed by the changes, it’s worth noting that the main folders screen appears pretty similar to Hotmail’s. In typical fashion, the folders are displayed at the left, with emails and advertising in the center and right side of the screen, respectively.
Overall, it shouldn’t be difficult for Hotmail users to make the transition to the new Hotmail service. If you’re an existing Hotmail user and want to try Outlook out, you can do so by navigating the Hotmail settings now.