We've been quite taken with Microsoft's Outlook.com webmail ever since the first previews for the service appeared in early August. What's next for Outlook.com? A gradual migration of all Hotmail users and an integration of Skype.
I caught up yesterday with Brian Hall, general manager of Windows Services, for an update on the product. While Outlook.com hasn't been heavily promoted outside of the launch blog post and some emails to existing Hotmail users, it has proved quite successful. In Australia, 500,000 people are now using the service.
Amongst new sign-ups (as distinct from converts from Hotmail.com), Outlook.com has achieved what was clearly a major goal: convincing Gmail users to make the switch. (There's some evidence of Google seeing that reaction too; it's only been since Outlook.com offered an option to auto-delete daily deal emails after 24 hours that Gmail began offering tools for a similar feature.)
Outlook.com has seen some minor tweaks since launch, such as an option to set your default reply mechanism to reply all (our advice: bad move to enable that). The next major shift will be integrating Skype into the service, Hall said. Details are being finalised and it won't happen until 2013, but it will include both voice and video calling options.
While an Android app for Outlook.com was released in November, Hall says that was effectively a one-off, designed to deal with the fact that older Android devices (2.4 and prior) don't handle Exchange Active Sync well. On newer Android phones and other platforms (iOS, Windows Phone and BlackBerry), that sync option is an easier way to access the account than a dedicated app, Hall said.
There won't be a mass migration of large groups of Hotmail and Live.com users at once, but Hall said they will be shifted gradually in groups of a million or so. The long-term aim is to move everyone, but that's likely to take a year or more.