Update 3:35 p.m.: Microsoft says on its official Outlook Twitter account that 1 million people have signed up for Outlook.com since it launched this morning.
If you’ve used email at work — and who hasn’t — chances are you’re familiar with Microsoft Outlook.
That’s what Microsoft’s banking on as it launches Outlook.com, a free, Web-based personal e-mail service with some of the same familiar features — and perhaps more importantly, the same familiar brand name — as the Outlook email you use at work.
At the same time, Outlook.com, the preview version of which launches today, is a spiffed-up version of the old Outlook, featuring a clean new design that’s designed to echo the “content over chrome” philosophy of Windows 8. (“Chrome” refers to visual elements to guide the user that aren’t part of the content, like toolbars, scroll bars and borders.)
In fact, Outlook.com, no surprise, is designed to be particularly compatible with Windows 8, with an interface that’s supposed to be good for both touch devices and mouse-and-keyboard use.
If you sign in to a Windows 8 PC with a Microsoft account (formerly Windows Live ID) that has an Outlook.com email address, your Outlook.com email, calendar and address book information is populated into the Windows 8 PC’s Mail, Calendar and People apps.
Some of the other features include: making it easy to delete emails and to view slideshows and videos; the ability to open, edit and share Office documents anywhere (via Office Web Apps); the option to connect to Facebook, Twitter and other social networks; and options to connect with the person you’re emailing via chat or video calls. In fact, there will be the ability to make a Skype video call directly from your Outlook.com inbox. (That capability is not in the preview version yet.)
When emailing with a person in your address book, there will be no ads featured, Microsoft promises, and there’s the ability to filter newsletters, group deals and the like.
Microsoft says it intends to eventually migrate all users of Hotmail — the company’s existing free personal email service — to Outlook.com eventually, though no timeline has been set for that yet. While Outlook.com is in preview (no deadline has been set yet for the end of preview either), Hotmail users can continue to use the same user interface they use now. Hotmail users will be able to keep their addresses even after moving to the Outlook user interface.
New users can sign up at www.outlook.com.
Here’s a video from Microsoft showing the features of Outlook.com:
[do action=”custom_iframe” width=”640″ height=”360″ src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/RnCu72G52bY
(Photos and video from Microsoft)