Microsoft Corp, the world’s largest software firm, has garnered about one million users from India for its new e-mail service, Outlook.com. The Nasdaq-listed company has been toying with the idea of a new and integrated e-mail service for quite some time, even though it had acquired Hotmail, to take on rivals in cyberspace.

Outlook.com was available since August this year on a preview basis, encouraging users to test it and move over to it, and has already won more than 25 million users globally. An automatic updation to a fuller version for users who have signed up for the account is slated to happen sometime in 2013.

“India is an interesting market for us because it’s one of the few markets where Hotmail was number one and that really switched over to Gmail. About three-four years ago, Google search, Gmail and Orkut were very strong, not to mention Android growing like mad. It was Google’s best market in many ways,” Microsoft General Manager (Windows) Brian Hall told Business Line. “Now we see an opportunity to win people back.”

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Outlook.com will offer free e-mail accounts like most other Web-based mail service providers. Microsoft, taking a leaf out of rival Google’s Gmail, intends to provide unlimited storage space to every user.

“Our Inbox storage is unlimited. We add a certain amount every month as the user approaches the limit. Gmail is 10 GB, one limit for everyone,” he added.

The main feature of Outlook.com is that social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, mail accounts like Hotmail and professional networking sites like LinkedIn can be integrated with this account. This eliminates the need of logging into multiple accounts and passwords.

Skype, a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service, and SkyDrive, a file hosting service that allows users to upload and sync files to cloud and access them from a Web browser, are also integrated with it.

The launch of the new Outlook would be a death knell for Hotmail, the free e-mail service co-founded by Sabeer Bhatia, who later sold it to Microsoft in 1997 for $400 million. At present, Hotmail has more than 300 million users.

“Hotmail users can choose to upgrade to Outlook, and when they do that they can keep all of their messages, all of their contacts, they can keep all their Hotmail address. They choose to get an Outlook account that can be their primary sign-in,” he added.

“During the next calendar year, we will start automatically upgrading everyone from Hotmail to Outlook. At that point you will not be able to sign into Hotmail,” he said.

Windows Live Messenger, Microsoft’s free chat service, is also being phased out, which is being replaced by Skype.

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Microsoft is taking on rival Google’s Gmail, the most popular e-mail, head-on. “I think tens of millions of people will switch from Gmail – which has surpassed Hotmail in terms of worldwide market share — to Outlook, but tens of millions of people will still keep Gmail.”

rajesh.kurup@thehindu.co.in

priya.s@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on December 4, 2012)
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