Microsoft announced today that its Outlook.com web-based email service is no longer in preview, whatever that means. The thing is, the calendar component of this service—which also includes contacts management, SkyDrive, and the Outlook Web Apps—still looks like a 2005-era Windows Live experience. And it’s unclear how Microsoft could try to take on Gmail and Google Calendar with something that looks this dated.
To be clear, I use, recommend, and prefer Outlook.com. But the calendar component, shown below, is a sad joke, something that looks and works nothing like the rest of the Outlook.com experience. I’ve asked Microsoft for an update on Outlook.com Calendar repeatedly since the service debuted in preview form last summer. “No comment.”
On the good news front, Microsoft claims that it has over 60 million people actively using Outlook.com, though it’s not clear how many of those are new customers and how many are existing Hotmail users.
Any Hotmail user can use the Outlook.com experience now, and over time all Hotmail users will be moved to the new experience. No, you won’t have to change your email address. As Steve Weiss writes in the Official Microsoft Blog, “Starting today, Microsoft will begin to upgrade every Hotmail user to Outlook.com, so they can benefit from new features like smart integration with their social networks and easy sharing of hundreds of photos and videos within a single message. The upgrade is seamless and instant for Hotmail customers; their @hotmail.com email address, password, contacts, etc., will stay the same.”
“Today is a major milestone in our mission to provide people everywhere with the world's best email experience,” Microsoft’s David Law writes in a post to the confusingly named Outlook Blog. (Outlook.com has nothing to do with Outlook, the rich/thick Windows application.) “You'll also see us kick off a large-scale marketing effort around the world to show that Outlook.com can get you going. And because we're confident that Outlook.com is the best email service available for consumers and ready to scale to a billion people, we'll soon start to upgrade hundreds of millions of Hotmail users to the new Outlook.com experience.”
According to Law, Microsoft has updated Outlook.com in a number of ways since the preview began six months ago, adding features and changes that were requested by users. (The biggest and most-frequently requested change, updating Calendar, is not even mentioned in this post, however.) No specific improvements are noted, however.
Microsoft does note that “Outlook.com customers have praised the inbox experience, with deeper social integration, 60% fewer ads and one-of-a-kind tools for managing newsletters, which make up as much as 80% of the typical inbox. Outlook.com customers are also enjoying the SkyDrive integration, with more than half a billion photos and Office documents shared by Outlook.com customers via SkyDrive.”
One final complaint about Outlook.com: How about a way to turn off or otherwise control Web Messenger? Between this huge issue and Calendar, I have no idea how Microsoft could possibly “launch” this thing now. It just isn’t ready, sorry.