Outlook.com Interface

After a long preview, Microsoft’s new Outlook.com email service has been officially launched to the public. During its preview trial, the service attracted 60 million users, using feedback from early adopters to make improvements along the way.

The new, “modern” Outlook is an attempt to gain market share from Google’s Gmail service, which dethroned Hotmail last year to become the world’s most popular email service. Microsoft has since created a campaign of ads claiming Gmail users are being “Scroogled” by Google’s advertisement deliver system that reads pages to display relevant ads.

To Microsoft’s credit, they have delivered a fresh experience by connecting Facebook and Twitter contacts and replacing advertisements with social updates on emails from connected contacts. On average, Microsoft claims users saw 60% fewer ads on Outlook because of this feature.

Another shining feature of the new Outlook is Sweep, which changes how the service handles newsletters and commercial email. Sweep moves all the non-personal email aside and allows a user to specify messages or sweep away all similar email in the future.

And to jump-start Outlook.com, Microsoft is discontinuing its popular Hotmail service and will migrate its reported 360 million users to Outlook by this summer. Hotmail users can keep their current email addresses, but will be forced to upgrade to Outlook’s new interface.

This latest move is part of a trend of Microsoft shifting its focus to cloud-based services..