Looking into Outlook.com, it’s a lovely interface based on the Metro styling (that “Metro” name is being dropped due to some litigation though). The email service certainly looks the part, and indeed is just as nice, if not nicer, than Gmail right now.
Getting users in will be tough though. Microsoft’s number one problem is that they’re not a name synonymous with “cool”, “chic” or “reliable”. Calling the service Outlook.com might have appeal with the business community, but certainly not with the MacBook-touting hipsters who think gmail is too big for its boots these days. And this is the target market for new users, really.
Business users won’t switch because they are more than likely unable to with work criteria. Maybe if Outlook.com offered exchange services in the package, it would tempt some IT people to accept it, but for now that’s not the case. The “average joe” user is more than likely happy out with their current service – regardless of what it is.
Microsoft really needs to push hard on the cool factor. Even the images used to show people happily using outlook.com are douchey. No one is happy to use email. It’s just something we use. Stop marketing it like it’s a Nintendo Wii. In fact, everyone should stop doing that across the board. “Outlook” as a name is easily linked to the desktop application we all know and hate. In fact, I’ve heard more Windows users (they still exist) wonder about alternatives to Outlook than any other app, which is remarkable because you have to buy into Outlook in the first place, as it comes bundled with Office.
Basically, the core service behind this is solid. Microsoft did a good job engineering a nice service that’s worth using. However, the naming convention and the fact that it’s Microsoft makes it less cool than gmail. Moreover, any Mac users who are using iCloud (@me.com, @mac.com) are very unlikely to switch over unless there’s a better featureset.
It is a good step for Microsoft though.