It’s official, Microsoft has made the complete transition to Outlook.com. Hotmail is no longer active and all former Hotmail users have been moved over to the new service. It’s a huge accomplishment, a major rebranding, and an opportunity to finally begin introducing new features rather than devote every resource to the transfer. Also, nobody is likely to open a new *@hotmail.com account from this point on, to the relief of us all.
The bit announcement contained some details about the transfer as well as the amusing infographic below.
Apparently over 400 million accounts are now active on Outlook.com. Of these, around 300 million seem to have been transferred from the Hotmail service. A sharp increase from the 60 million active accounts that we heard about in February.
All told, it’s definitely something to brag about on Microsoft’s end. Fortunately they’re using the opportunity to do more than make a PR move. A couple new features have already been introduced.
Outlook.com users can now take advantage of SMTP Send, for example, which makes life much easier for people working through multiple email addresses. It’s being rolled out worldwide at this point, but should be available to most of the US right away.
SkyDrive integration has also been drastically expanded. Rather than simply uploading attachments, it’s now possible to select items from your SkyDrive and add them. They will be included with thumbnail links that already have the proper permissions to share with the recipient. Pictures shared in this way will automatically generate photo mail.
Perhaps most importantly, Skype is being built directly into the Outlook interface. It’s a beta feature at the moment, but first the UK and then the US and Germany will be getting audio and video calling right in their inboxes. If you consider the other new feature testing at Skype right now, video messaging, it makes even more sense. Complete integration could eventually make Outlook.com into a far more functional substitute for the now defunct MSN Messenger service.
There’s still room to grow and a number of new features to look forward to that haven’t been discussed yet, but this is progress. It’s completely fair to say that Microsoft has come up with a reliable alternative to Gmail for the average user. At this point, given the antagonism between the two companies, they couldn’t really afford to do anything less.