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Gmail fail? Microsoft says it has a new Outlook

Microsoft is launching a $30 million ad campaign today to promote Outlook.com -- a new product meant to compete with Internet-based email systems like Google Inc.’s Gmail. 

That’s going to be some stiff competition. Gmail is currently the big dog in Iinternet-based email. It has 306 million worldwide users, not including those who visit only on mobile devices, according the latest data from research firm comScore. 

“A lot of people are directing their office email to Gmail,” says  Raj Venkatesan, a marketing professor at University of Virginia. He says Gmail has benefitted from the fact that people want to merge their work and personal lives into their email habits. Now, Microsoft is trying to tap into that trend too, and take advantage of how popular Outlook already is in the workplace. 

“You can build on the loyalty in the customer relationship,” Venkatasen says.  “Now Outlook can have one product that the customer can use when they're at work and when they're at home.”

Outlook.com has been in test mode since last summer, and Microsoft claims it has already been adopted by over 60 million people. 

About the author

Krissy Clark is the senior reporter for Marketplace’s Wealth & Poverty Desk.
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Actually I go to considerable effort to keep my work and personal lives separate, and I've never been very impressed with Micro$oft's workplace products (difficult to navigate, and with all the worst possible default settings).

Personally I think Microsoft just gets amusement out of continuously changing things in ways that will make them totally non-backward compatible, and forcing users to waste precious time relearning how to use basic tools (who's specific features no one really cares about anyway). Who ever said computers make us more productive, has never used a Microsoft product.

I am not completely objective on this question, as prior to retirement I struggled with Outlook for a couple of decades at work. We not-so-fondly referred to the program as "LookOut" more often than not. It was regimented and clumsy. So I can't say how much Outlook.com resembles the old Outlook program, nor can I say how much "loyalty" the program may transfer to the new service. I use Gmail for personal email and have no real complaints about it or how it works, although there are disconcerting differences between the "regular" version and the "Google apps" version that seem unnecessary. That said, no email service is without issues, but Gmail has established itself as an extremely stable and user friendly email system, allowing users to easily access accounts via third party programs (using IMAP) which other web based email systems don't provide for free (I'm talking about you Yahoo). So all in all, I'm not interested in Outlook.com presented by the giant M$ corporation which has found unique ways over the years to screw up even the very simplest of computer activities. IMHO.

Since 1998, I've used Hotmail for my personal email accounts. Yes, Hotmail users still exist. No, I'm not old. I'm 31. Well, I'm not old-ish. And, no, I am not using Hotmail with ironic hipster anti-enthusiasm. About a month ago, I accepted the option to switch from Hotmail to Outlook. I can tell you that I was pleasantly surprised by the drastic interface changes I observed when moving from Hotmail to Outlook. If you've been using Windows 8, or seen any of the Windows 8/Windows phone commercials, the new Outlook should look relatively familiar. After firing off a few emails over the last month--yes, I sent only a few emails last month--I can say that I absolutely love the new Outlook. Its interface is easy to navigate, well organized, and clean.

Now, I will state that I have extensive experience with Gmail, both through my phone and work, so I have a frame of reference. To me Gmail looks and moves in an archaic fashion. Maybe it's because I use web-based Gmail on Firefox, I don't know. But, Gmail doesn't have the aesthetics that Outlook has (or Hotmail had). No matter how "Comfortable," "Cozy," or "Compact" Gmail is, to me, its interface is just a utilitarian blunt instrument to fire off a few emails. Now, does it get the job done? Absolutely. But, I'd rather enjoy the experience, even if it's only for a minute or two a few times a month.

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