The never-ending battle between tech titans Microsoft (Nasdaq:MSFT) and Google (Nasdaq:GOOG) continues, and this time Microsoft is hoping a different approach will work. Ever since Google launched Gmail, its clean, web-based email service, everyone else has been playing catch up. By everyone else, I mean Yahoo! and Microsoft's Hotmail. For years, Microsoft has been trying to battle Gmail by refining and improving the Hotmail system, but those efforts haven't been successful for the OS Giant. As a result, Microsoft has decided to take its battle with Gmail in a new direction. Will It Work?
Building a Better Mousetrap
Recently, Microsoft has decided that Hotmail just isn't going to cut it anymore. Gmail recently overtook the long-reigning e-mail service in numbers of active users, according to a June article published by VentureBeat. While facelifts and retweaking the user experience have their marginal benefits, Microsoft intends to dump its e-mail mainstay and promulgate its new response to Google's mail darling: outlook.com. For years now, Gmail has been widely considered the cleanest and easiest web-based mail system. Tech junkies, by their nature, are always looking for something better and Microsoft hopes to deliver that and more with outlook.com. To be sure, many of the internal functions of Outlook.com will be brought over from Hotmail. However, what Microsoft aims to do is make something different and better for users.
According to online industry publication AllThingsD, the biggest difference with outlook.com is the appearance of the inbox, naturally the most important thing to an email user. If you've ever used Outlook at work, outlook.com will look like a cleaner adaptation of that. On the left hand side of the page, there will be a column listing all the Folders (Inbox, Sent Mail, etc.) and in the middle of the page will be the main text box. The right hand side of the page will have an area that displays the contact information of the person you are emailing. That contact page will be linked to social media, so if you have a Facebook connection, you will be able to utilize additional features, such as status updates.
The ultimate question of course, is will outlook.com succeed in going up against Gmail? While Microsoft plans to eventually transition all Hotmail accounts over to outlook.com, they recognize the need for new users. According to Microsoft's Brian Hall, "the first goal is for outlook.com to attract tens of millions of new users..." Microsoft wants to attract the younger crowd who want ease of use and functionality. Gmail succeeded because it was so easy to use that people with other email accounts set up Gmail.
Microsoft also claims that outlook.com will have a strong security solution that could rival or surpass in quality the current security filters on Google. Security is an important issue in email. Everyone hates getting spam mail and no wants to have their email accounts hacked. If outlook.com can indeed succeed with an enhanced security system, the company will have an easier time attracting new users. Add in the fact that outlook.com will allow users easier access to social media from their email, and it could prove to be stiff competition for Gmail. Moreover, Microsoft intends on adjusting its ad placements in the inbox to be less intrusive than its e-mail flagship's.
The Bottom Line
It's evident from all the times that Microsoft has tried to improve Hotmail that the company is really focused on developing a superior email product. Then again, the folks at Google are no fools, either; perhaps they have something up their sleeve to improve Gmail? In any event, consumers stand to win when businesses compete for their loyalty.
Will It Work?