This week, Microsoft opened the floodgates to Outlook.com. And according to the software giant, over 1 million users quickly poured into the cloud-based email service to claim their @outlook.com addresses.
With Outlook.com, Microsoft is taking a page from Apple's playbook by unifying its products around a common design language. Just don't call that language Metro.
Following some rumblings about a possible trademark dispute surrounding the company's use of the term, Microsoft is distancing itself from Metro. Now considered only a code-name, Metro has been used extensively by Microsoft to describe the distinctive interface that appears on Windows Phone 7, the upcoming Windows 8 operating system, Office 2013 and now Outlook.com.
Outlook.com sports a clean, uncluttered UI that carries forward the Metro aesthetic. In a blog post, Chris Jones, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Windows Live division, writes that the changes to Microsoft's webmail platform are meant to translate seamlessly across different display sizes, including tablets, smartphones and PC monitors.
The UI overhaul is also meant to emphasize its very reason for being, namely email. "Its fresh, clean user interface gets the clutter out of your way -- the header has 60% fewer pixels and there are 30% more messages visible in your inbox than the webmail most people are used to," writes Jones.
Advertising is similarly restrained. "And there are no display ads or large search boxes that take up extra space," he adds. Under the hood, it "uses Exchange ActiveSync, so it powers your mail, calendar and people experience on your smartphone, tablet, and the new Outlook 2013 Preview," informs Jones.
Outlook.com is more socially adept, too.
In his Outlook.com hands-on for Datamation, Mike Elgan noted the service's uncommonly comprehensive social network integration. "Outlook.com integrates with Facebook, Google and Twitter, as well as other services such as Yahoo and Linkedin," observes Elgan.
"This is an impressive feat in itself, given the politics of social networks," he notes.