Microsoft Outlook.com Email Unlikely to Catch Google Gmail
The revamping of Microsoft's Hotmail email product 16 years after its debut comes pretty late in the game, and is unlikely to give satisfied Google Gmail users a reason to switch alliances.Microsoft's newly announced major refresh of its 16-year-old Hotmail product has the goodsfrom a new name, Outlook.com, to a streamlined interface, key improvements and the integration of social media connectionsbut those coming changes still appear to be too little, too late to get dedicated Gmail or Yahoo Mail users to jump ship. That's the reaction from two IT analysts who say that the way-overdue revamping of the former Hotmail service will allow Microsoft to catch up to Google much more than it will entice contented Gmail users to find a reason to switch.
"It's puzzling because it's been 16 years since Hotmail was introduced, and this is the first real change that Microsoft has done with it," said Dan Keldsen, principal analyst at Information Architected.
"Why didn't they do that Skype integration first?" Keldsen asked. "Why that isnt one of the first things brought into this new re-launch baffles me." What the Outlook.com unveiling does prove, according to Keldsen, is that while Gmail and Google Apps for the enterprise have been side businesses for Google for years, "this is a sign that Microsoft is getting more serious targeting Google and its apps role with Outlook.com, Office 365 and other products. And like Google, they're trying to go with the consumer side first." Maurene Caplan Grey, principal of Grey Consulting, agreed, saying that the Outlook.com concept continues Microsoft's recent professional consumer, or prosumer, strategy. The problem today for Microsoft, however, is that "Google is way ahead," said Grey. "Users won't abandon their Gmail accounts and start all over again" because they are already entrenched with Gmail accounts that meet their business needs very well, she said. "And its a pretty good online email service." One area where a new Outlook.com could help Microsoft better compete with Google is by offering improved social media connections where users can link all their accounts, said Grey. "Google has built and is continuing to build out social community services," such as adding chat from its acquired Meebo unit, said Grey. "Microsoft really doesn't have that kind of offering yet. That's what they're attempting to do with Outlook.com. All we know is that social media, mobility, connecting with the community, thats where Microsoft needs to be to connect with the prosumer market, and they have never done that." The new Outlook.com name for the revamped Hotmail service, though, has both Keldsen and Grey shaking their heads. "Outlook is already a product," said Keldsen, describing Microsoft's existing application-based email client. "It seems to me that it only confuses things. If this is really their reinvention of Webmail, then I would have used a different name. If after this long a time, the best they can do is to switch the name from Hotmail to Outlook.com, thats pretty bad." Grey said the name change will be very confusing for customers, adding: "They need to do effective branding, and Outlook.com is not it." Editor's Note: This story was corrected and updated to clarify when Microsoft acquired Skype.