The New Microsoft is not Your Father’s Outlook

Microsoft Outlook has been the industry standard for desktop email for years, and although that likely isn’t changing any time soon—see the Outlook 2013 Preview as evidence—Microsoft believes that leveraging the incredible power of the cloud to provide powerful web-based email is just as if not more important.

After starting from scratch, Microsoft has built, which offers free web-based email packed with features designed to streamline the email experience; allow users to more easily connect with contacts from social networks; use SkyDrive to share images and create, view, and collaborate on Microsoft Office documents; and enhance productivity by seamlessly integrating with Microsoft Office Web Apps. inbox

If this sounds a bit similar to Hotmail, that’s because the two share a lot of DNA, but has been built separately and from the ground up—this isn’t just a port of Hotmail with some extra features slapped on. is cloud-based and thus will sync easily across all your many devices, from your desktop PC at work to your home laptop to your tablet and smartphone; plus, understanding that we use our mobile devices constantly for checking and sending email, Microsoft wisely saw fit to build in touch-friendly capabilities. SkyDrive

But that’s just the tip of the cloud-powered iceberg; uses SkyDrive—Microsoft’s grossly underrated cloud storage service—instead of simply providing a bit of web-based email storage. This is an important distinction, because instead of attaching a file to an email, you can share files with your email recipients. They can access the file from SkyDrive, so neither party is actually sending storage-hogging data back and forth.

Further, this way all collaborators are working on a single document instead of having to keep track of which version got sent to who and what’s been changed, and everyone can use Outlook’s Office Web Apps to make any necessary changes or additions.

For as valuable as these aforementioned features are, they only address part of the email experience. Microsoft set out to make the actual day-to-day experience of email more efficient by creating a smarter inbox, one that automatically files away the messages you’re not particularly interested in seeing and keeping the best stuff front and center. It’s as simple as implementing an easy-to-create custom rule, tailored to the messages you receive in your inbox.

You know the things we’re talking about—daily shopping deals, newsletters, social media notifications, and so on. They’re messages that aren’t exactly spam, but you care much more about the email from your friend finalizing weekend plans or an update from your mom than the best sales at your favorite clothing store. That’s graymail, and allows you to create custom rules to automatically recognize it and stash it in smart folders so you can get to it when you get to it without dealing with a clogged-up inbox in the meantime. You can also create custom rules for certain types of messages or specific senders for even more control. People

For most of us, our contacts are spread over multiple services. connects into Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and even Google to bring all of your contacts together. As your friends update their contact information in their social networking profiles, that information is automatically updated in the people tab. You can even chat in real time with friends on Facebook and Windows Live Messenger.

Because is free, it is ad-supported, but citing user privacy as a priority, the (small, mostly unobtrusive) ads you see are not generated from snooping your content; they’re simply served up generically from Bing Deals based on profile information (gender, age, location, etc.) you specifically provide to However, Bing Local will have no idea where you’re located unless you opt to provide your zip code in your profile. Skype

If you aren’t yet convinced to at least have a peek at, here’s some additional incentive: coming soon, you’ll be able to video chat with Skype right from your inbox. It’s the cherry on top of a very tasty email sundae. is a preview of modern email from Microsoft. It has a fresh and intuitive design, connects your email to useful information from Facebook and Twitter, and gives you a smarter inbox with the power of Office and SkyDrive. Visit to learn more and connect with us at @Outlook on Twitter.

** Thanks to Microsoft and Technorati Media for sponsoring this post. Although sponsored posts are paid for, an advertiser is not paying us for our opinion.