Microsoft Previews, Signals End For Hotmail

It's time for a change, according to today's post on the Microsoft Outlook blog, and that change is a new personal email service that will eventually replace Hotmail. The Preview is designed to better incorporate social networking than old-school email services have done in the past. And, as you might expect, it's going to play well with Windows 8.

If you have a Microsoft Account (formerly Windows Live ID), you can sign in right now and take it for a spin. If you don't, you can sign up for one (it's free) at the login page. The service has a cleaner interface than Hotmail and new features. Chief among the new perks is what Microsoft calls the "universal address book."'s address book is populated with the contacts from whichever social networks and other services you use. That includes Gmail, notably, as well as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and others. You can also pull your Gmail mail into Email Inbox will have built-in Office applications like Excel and Word, as well as features that help you manage your email. But Microsoft stresses that is supposed to be about more than email - it wants you to be treating the service as your communications hub. Skype integration and chatting functionality are meant to help you do just that. Ads are present, of course, but Microsoft has made the ads part of the service's design to make them less obtrusive.

Microsoft Address Book

Although is an online email service, rather than software, it will have a software-like feel in Windows 8. Microsoft says that as soon as you fire up a Windows 8 device, will populate the Calendar, Mail, and People apps.

So, will Gmail users flock to We'll see. Hotmail users don't stand to lose much, if anything, though. doesn't appear to lack any features that were present in Hotmail, and it has plenty of features Hotmail doesn't. If you want to give Microsoft your two cents, it's asking for feedback.