Tech giant launches new email service that hopes to take on Google, but has the email shipped sailed?
Since the internet went mainstream in the middle of the 1990’s, email has revolutionised the way people communicate with each other. Providing users with a simple, instant and efficient way to communicate with people all over the world, it has become a staple part of people’s every day use of the internet.
Microsoft realised the importance of email when they purchased Hotmail, one of the first and most prominent services, in 1997 for $400m. Since then, other players have emerged, most notably Google with their Gmail service, which simplified email and attracted many of Microsoft’s users that felt Hotmail had become cumbersome and weighed down by intrusive adverts.
However, with the emergence of social networks like Twitter and Facebook, the way we communicate is continuing to evolve. People can now seamlessly switch between platforms when communicating, which has eroded the ubiquitous use of email from everyday life. Even Google has integrated their Gmail service into their new social network Google Plus, as well as their Android mobile operating system, blurring the lines between instant messaging, video conferencing, email and text messages.
Microsoft, attempting to wrestle control of the market back from Google, yesterday announced a brand new service that it hopes can reinvigorate email. Outlook.com, a web version of their desktop email client Outlook, will eventually replace Hotmail. It offers far more simplified design, based in their Windows 8 Metro UI, while also providing sophisticated junk email management tools.
Soon, the company plans to integrate online video conferencing service Skype, which they bought in 2011 for $8.5bn, potentially creating a unified communication system that rivals Google’s.
Is it too late to be revamping a sluggish email service though? Most users are already signed up to other services, and will be reluctant to change addresses after so many years with the same contact details. Also, the use of email has declined sharply in recent years. ComScore reported in 2011 that email usage amongst teenagers had declined by 59 percent on the previous year’s figure, with social networks receiving the most use from young people.
Microsoft will integrate Outlook.com with social networks like like Facebook, which they already have a strong partnership with. The difficulty will be in persuading people they need yet another way of communicating outside of existing services.