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Hotmail Morphs into Outlook.com

The idea is to stop Google’s Gmail from eating into its turf

Microsoft has reworked its browser-based Hotmail into a free, socialized, Facebook-friendly service it's calling Outlook.com, borrowing the name from its Office e-mail client.

The idea is to stop Google's Gmail from eating into its turf.

With 324 million users Hotmail is the largest online e-mail service on the planet. It has an estimated 36% of the global market to Gmail's quickly advancing 32%. Yahoo Mail also has 32%.

After eight years of neglect, Hotmail has been given a simple Metro-like UI and an uncluttered Googlesque look that's tailored to small devices as well as PCs and Macs.

It'll separate out e-mail with photo or document attachments. Messages with Office attachments will integrate with Office Web Apps for previews of Word, PowerPoint and Excel documents. Picture attachments will come up as a slideshow.

It's supposed to recognize YouTube videos, calendar appointments and tracking updates from UPS and FedEx.

The remake also includes spam-filtering for dealing with the torrent of junk mail the Internet delivers. Mass messages are dumped into separate folders.

Users can connect directly with their Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+ accounts; sync address books; and start a Facebook chat from inside Outlook.com.

Outlook.com integrates with Microsoft SkyDrive cloud storage. Skype will eventually be built in.

Unobtrusive text-based ads appear on the side of the inbox screen; they're not in the messages. Microsoft's promising not to use the mail for personalized ads.

Hotmail will apparently remain around until users sicken of it and migrate.

There's a preview at www.outlook.com.

In six hours or so, Microsoft tweeted that Outlook.com got more than a million people signing up.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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