The growth of Outlook.com's user base since Microsoft launched the free Internet email service at the end of July makes for a very nice chart (see image, top) — the kind with the diagonal line pointing towards the upper right corner just where the Redmond-based firm wants it.
Outlook.com, Microsoft's big challenge to Google's Gmail service, has gone from zero to 25 million active users in just under four months, according to the software giant. What's more, about a third of those users are also active on Gmail and a Microsoft study found that "after spending just five days" tooling around on the web client, "4 out of 5 of Gmail users said they would switch" to Outlook.com, the company said in a Tuesday blog post.
Looking to expand its user base even more, Microsoft has developed an Outlook app for Android. It is now available for free in the Google Play store and runs on all devices running Android 2.x and above.
The new web mail product has received considerable praise since coming to our attention back in July, with Michael Muchmore calling it "the best thing to happen to email in years," in his Outlook.com review, touting its integration with Microsoft's SkyDrive cloud services and Office web apps, as well as the whopping 300MB allowed for file attachments, "compared with 25MB for the next highest competitor," as particularly strong features.
Microsoft has been running web-based email for years — the company acquired Hotmail all the way back in 1997 and it remains a hugely popular web mail platform. But Outlook.com was designed to be as feature-rich as Google's Gmail, which in recent years has been grabbing market share in the enterprise IT segment long dominated by premise-based solutions like Microsoft's Exchange server and client-based Outlook product.
Based on its internal research, Microsoft credited Outlook.com features like programmable keyboard shortcuts, quick access to search operators, and conversation threading for helping new users transition from Gmail more easily. The software giant also claimed that its product "does a better job of blocking spam" than Google's product and "outperforms Gmail when it comes to helping manage unwanted messages like newsletters and daily deals."
Study participants, recruited specifically from a group of active Gmail users, also preferred Outlook.com's "clean user design" to Gmail's UI, according to Microsoft.
Going forward, the Outlook.com team is adding even more features to the web-based email service, including a one-click archive, more keyboard shortcuts, and new inbox customisation options.
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