Microsoft has opened another front in its battle against Google with a tool that makes it easy for Gmail users to make the switch to Outlook.com.
While not explicitly part of the company's "Scroogled" campaign, an anti-Google marketing and outreach initiative, the company struck some familiar notes when it introduced the feature in a Dec. 11 Outlook Blog post. Microsoft's Naoto Sunagawa, a senior program manager lead, wrote that "discontent with Gmail seems to be on the rise."
Citing data from an Ipsos study, he said "nearly 1 in 4 consumers would switch email providers if it was easier to do." Further, 70 percent of consumers felt that ads shouldn't interfere with their email experience and 58 percent didn't want the contents of their emails scanned for ad serving purposes.
These familiar themes echo some of arguments Microsoft continues to raise in its Scroogled offensive. In February, Microsoft revived the campaign with a new video ad that warned of Google going "through every single Gmail. Every word. In every email." Google's motivation: "To sell ads, based on your most personal messages."
The video went on to claim that "there's no way to opt out of this invasion of your privacy."
Last month, Microsoft opened a Scroogled online store. It includes a T-shirt that mocks the Google logo, using the search giant's distinctive lettering to spell out Scroogled instead. "A classic that shows the world that you're tired of having your digital life monetized by Google," reads the item's description.
Google shot back during this year's RSA Security conference. In a discussion that at points grew heated, Google's senior privacy counsel, Keith Enright, labeled Microsoft's Scroogled campaign as "intellectually dishonest."
Working off the premise that users are clinging to their Gmail accounts because "the thought of switching to a new service can seem daunting," Sunagawa said his company has "introduced new functionality right into Outlook.com that does the heavy lifting for you." The tool guides users on how to connect their Gmail accounts to their Outlook.com accounts using the OAuth authentication protocol.
"This will import your Gmail emails into your Outlook.com inbox and, because you've connected both accounts, your Google contacts will automatically appear in Outlook.com," added Sunagawa. In addition, contacts, inbox structure and read/unread status are preserved. Finally, it configures the Gmail address "to act as a 'send-only' account," allowing users' emails from @gmail.com addresses from within Outlook.com.
"The import happens in the background," informed Sunagawa, allowing Outlook.com account holders to continue using the Webmail service while it gathers emails from Google's servers. Microsoft sends a confirmation email when the process is complete.
It's been a busy year for Outlook.com. In May, Microsoft announced that it had completed the Hotmail-Outlook transition, which involved migrating 150 petabytes of emails and resulted in more than 400 million active accounts. The company switched on Outlook.com's new Skype-powered video calling features in August and rolled out IMAP support in September.