Frankly speaking, I don’t see many reasons for why anyone using Gmail for sometime would want to switch to Microsoft’s upgrade of Hotmail, christened Outlook.com. You can easily find technical reviews of the service and detailed comparison of Outlook.com with Gmail and other popular services so I’ll only stick to my first hands on experience with the service.
After reading many raving reviews about Outlook.com, I decided to give it a try. Signing up is as simple (or as difficult) as any other email service so no issues there. After logging into the account, the first thing which came to my was – “Hey! they have copied Gmail interface” (refer to screenshots below). For example, positioning of logo, the way emails are listed, position and style of folders and labels (Category in Outlook) and even the positioning of settings is quite similar.
But when you start looking deeper, you realize that the interface is much cleaner compared to Gmail and there is lot of room available. However when you’ll start organizing your mailbox (creation of folder and categories) and your mailbox has plenty of emails then I guess it would more or less start looking similar to Gmail.
Another thing which is interesting is that there are no ads and Microsoft says it won’t show ads based on your email conversations. I don’t know if that’s good or bad since I find text advertisements in my Gmail inbox quite useful sometimes. I have been able to find interesting stuff due to Gmail’s auto-magical contextual advertising. Recently I was looking for a JQuery plugin for one of the web applications we were working on, there was an email conversation ongoing (we use free Google Apps) and suddenly one ad started showing up which was exactly what we needed. It was obviously a commercial plugin but it was a life saver for us as it saved us from the trouble of reinventing the wheel and definitely lot of time.
One significant advantage Outlook.com has over Gmail is that it allows attachment upto 300 MB in size using SkyDrive integration. It looks exciting at first however when you think over it for sometime, you’ll probably realize who would want to upload a 300 MB attachment when you can use Google Drive, Dropbox or any such other service for sharing files privately. Would you like to wait for minutes (or hours) depending on your internet speed for attachment to finish uploading before you can actually send the email? I would prefer sending an email saying “Hey! I will be uploading file XXX on Dropbox in next few mins“. You decide which approach you would prefer.
Outlook.com allows chatting with your Facebook friends and has support for integrating other popular services for contacts like LinkedIn and Twitter. You can always import users from these services in Gmail as well. Chatting with Facebook users is probably an added advantage however an avid Facebook user will anyway have a Facebook tab open in the browser which makes the functionality redundant. Yes, it might be useful if you are in office and can’t access Facebook publicly 😉
While trying out Outlook.com, I was looking for contacts manager but couldn’t find it easily. For accessing contacts manager you need to hover your mouse over the logo which then shows a drop-down icon, clicking on which shows the contact manager along with three other options (Mail, Calendar and SkyDrive). This too have been copied from Gmail but in Gmail, you always see the drop down “caret” icon which tell you something is there for you to check so it’s not that confusing.
If you are a Microsoft Outlook (desktop email client) user then you would be able to find many similarities in Outlook.com like options for reading pane. Calendar is also very much similar as in outlook email client. You may be able to find many more such similarities which will make your transition from desktop to cloud version easier.
Outlook.com is definitely a much better email service compared to it’s predecessor Hotmail however when you compare that with Gmail, I doubt it’ll find many takers since people are so used to Gmail and its easy to use features which is kind of addictive. Even if you compare both services technically, you won’t find much in favor of Outlook.com. However Outlook.com would be a good choice for someone who hasn’t had any experience with any email service, for example kids due to its super clean interface and minimal design.