This time things are different. Microsoft has officially announced that they will be discontinuing the Hotmail services over the course of at least a year (possibly longer). The new service is getting an overhaul and if the information we have is right will be using the Office365 servers (Azure servers) and storage to provide just
the Outlook interface. We are not surprised by this as we have already stated that Microsoft has to repurpose and use these servers and services or face losing a ton of money. In fact if you do log into Outlook.com you will notice something very specific that shows you are using Microsoft’s exchange servers through Office 365. The term OWA is used in multiple places in the URL [default.aspx?id=*****&owa=1&owasuffix=owa]. For those of you that do not know OWA stands for Outlook Web Access and is the naming convention that has been used since Exchange 2007.
By pushing Outlook.com they see it as a gateway to their other service offerings in the same product family (Office365). They are also hoping to leverage the brand name of Outlook to get more people to use the service. To help get people back to using Hotmail as more than their “spam accounts” Microsoft is bring features that have been available in the regular versions of Outlook (and Outlook in Office365) to everyone. You will be able to better sort email as well as integrate your webmail with social media services. This is very similar to what you can do in Outlook now with the different social integration plug-ins.
Some of the features that Microsoft is talking about have been in Hotmail for a while though and are not really new to the service. You have always been able to link Messenger and Hotmail in both directions. There is even a web based version of the internet messaging program inside Hotmail (and has been for a while). Microsoft has built on this though as they are adding in Facebook chat and Skype in the future.
For those of you that are using Hotmail or Live Mail, well Microsoft has already made the changes for you. When you head to Hotmail.com or mail.live.com you will be going to Outlook.com. When you get into the application you will quickly see that they are pushing the Metro look here as well as everywhere else in their product line. It is part of their strategy to make Metro the standard by forcing it into everything. We are not at all sure if this is going to work for them at all, but they seem to think that this is what the consumer wants when they said they wanted a consistent look across all of their devices (when they really said they wanted the Windows, as in Windows 7, experience on their tablet). Time will tell if this will catch on and if Microsoft’s move to recycle their past failures will be a winning one or not, but we do know that consumers often do not like having things forced on them. No matter what happens things will be interesting for the consumer and corporate IT world over the next 6 months.
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