[This story is running in the print edition of The Seattle Times Feb. 19, 2013.]
For Outlook.com, the time has come to end previews and take the stage for real.
Microsoft debuted its free, Web-based email service to the public in preview form last July. Since then, according to the company, it has gained 60 million active users.
And Tuesday, Microsoft is removing the “preview” label and launching a big global ad campaign for
“It’s the largest ever campaign for free email from Microsoft, and probably for all free email,” said Dharmesh Mehta, a senior director for Outlook at Microsoft.
Mehta declined to specify how much the company is spending on the ad campaign, but said it’s “tens of millions” of dollars and will include TV, radio, online, bus and train ads.
Why the big push?
”We think it’s the best free email out there,” said Mehta.
It’s also part of the company’s move toward more tightly integrated and branded products and services.
Outlook — which is used mainly by businesses — is a well known Microsoft brand associated with email. So extending the brand into the consumer realm with Outlook.com made sense.
Microsoft wanted to have “one brand for email,” Mehta said. “You have Outlook in the workplace. We want to reach people in both parts of their lives.”
Outlook.com could also serve as an entryway for consumers to other Microsoft offerings, given how integrated it is to products such as SkyDrive, Microsoft’s personal cloud service.
“Your choice of email influences your choices of other things: productivity and product solutions, how you share,” Mehta said.
It’s all part of Microsoft’s “better together” strategy that’s coming together, said Wes Miller, an analyst with independent research firm Directions on Microsoft.
“This year, we can expect a significant push from Microsoft on all cloud fronts,” including Outlook.com, SkyDrive, Office 365 [the company’s new subscription-based version of its productivity suite] and Windows Azure cloud platform,” Miller predicts.