The cloud-based email delivery system has received a huge dose of Botox courtesy of the new Metro visual language that is designed to embrace the Smartphone revolution. Already, many are proclaiming Outlook.com as ‘pretty cool’ – even Wired Magazine.
For instance, new features such as the ability to display attachments and video as slideshow overlays does have a certain amount of ‘wow’ built in. But, there are caveats to this artistic success, with news that the slideshows are contingent on another proprietary app, Silverlight; which is basically Microsoft’s answer to Adobe Flash.
Now, the use of Silverlight is not necessarily such a big thing if you don’t mind downloading the player in order to leverage its cool functionality. However, with HTML5 around the corner, these types of integrations are not seen as the smartest move.
Hotmail.com was perhaps one of the clearest and most visible apps of the initial Internet revolution, but Microsoft never took it to the levels that Google’s Gmail did. The new offering is designed to counter Google’s lead in the webmail arena, especially since Microsoft has other apps that will play nicely with it over time including Skype Video and probably Microsoft SharePoint which now also has hooks into Yammer, another great business social collaboration tool.
Wired Magazine also reports that “while sending people stuff via email isn’t exactly the most efficient means of sharing, sometimes it’s just the easiest. To handle all of your attachments, Outlook.com gives each user 7GB of SkyDrive storage. Every file you send in an email gets stored on SkyDrive, and appears in the mail as a preview, with a link to the full version, addressing the problem of attachment size limits.”
“My first impression of Outlook.com was how uncluttered it looks. Even after I had imported more than 20,000 messages from three different Gmail accounts the new mail system’s main screen retained its simple, elegant appearance,” said CNET.
Thus, Microsoft is now making a concerted effort to bring its online presence on par with Google, and they’re willing to radically re-engineer its core offerings including Windows 8 and Outlook to do it. These developments are important because they demonstrate the effect open-source platforms such as Google (and various shared hosting companies like Midphase) have had on the traditional server and desktop environments. With more and more people storing information in the cloud and on remotely hosted dedicated servers, it becomes imperative that the software works in the simplest, flexible and efficient manner possible. Microsoft appears to have woken up to this fact, although a little late.