Microsoft's New Outlook.com is a Pretty Great Email Service - Technologist
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Microsoft's New Outlook.com is a Pretty Great Email Service

My relationship with Microsoft goes back to the early-90s, when as a first-grader, my stepfather taught me how to use DOS command prompts and install Windows 3.1. True old-school. The advent of the Internet and Windows 95 only solidified my relationship with Redmond; for the longest time, Microsoft could do no wrong.

Office was magnificent. Windows 95 and 98 SE were revolutionary. I even (gasp!) used Internet Explorer.

So where did Redmond go wrong? It may have began with the browser wars. Netscape killed IE in terms of speed and reliability. IE killed Netscape through questionable business tactics (and because AOL bought Netscape and filled it with bloatware, but I digress). Windows ME was a colossal failure, as was Vista.

There was also that time where I tried to sign up for Hotmail but their offensive language filters wouldn't allow me to because my last name is "Peacock".

That was probably the moment where I truly started shying away from Microsoft's products. I never made the Mac switch, mainly because of the exorbitant cost of their machines. But, aside from Windows, I avoided Microsoft products like the plague.

Besides, Hotmail really did suck. And if you've ever used corporate Outlook's browser interface, you know how buggy and flaky it can be, even after decades of development.

With all of that said, I expected very little from the new Outlook.com.

I was wrong.

In keeping with Microsoft's new modern-minimalist-Windows 8 design scheme, Outlook has as clean of an interface as possible. There are only a handful of folders or buttons. Other services, like the free SkyDrive and Office Web Apps are hidden in nested menus to avoid clutter.

The site is also quick. The most annoying thing about using corporate old-school Outlook is the incredible lag that comes with the simplest of tasks, like writing a new email. New Outlook did it in about a second, on unreliable, slow airport Wi-Fi.

Functionality-wise, much like Microsoft's other products that we've tinkered with this week, it's near-perfect.

There's also the bonus of not having your email scanned and turned into ads or having Big Brother delete every email with the phrase "barely legal teen" in it. Microsoft's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy are much more consumer-friendly than either Google or Apple's.

So is it enough to recommend a switch? It's certainly worth exploring. It's also worth noting that Google stopped offering free Google Apps for small businesses, which used to allow a handful users to have customized Google accounts @yourdomain.com. Microsoft's apparently offers Outlook.com's services, including Office Web Apps, for free, for your personal domain.

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