Microsoft has rebranded their popular Hotmail service to Outlook.com. As you know, for several years Yahoo.com and Hotmail were extremely popular email services. Along came then, Gmail, and with huge free online storage it swept up the users from both of the other email services. Strong fan following of Gmail also washed away other smaller email services.
Even Facebook’s email service was not a match to the mighty Gmail. An important thing to note here is that ironically enough, Hotmail still has the highest number of users followed by Gmail and Yahoo mail, although the user base of Hotmail contains a lot of inactive and secondary email accounts.
Now, everybody is talking about Outlook.com and whether it will be a sizable competitor to Gmail. In this article, let’s do a rematch between Microsoft and Google email services.
One of the most important aspects of an email service is its security. You don’t want snooping eyes on your email conversations. As far as security goes, you know already how robust Gmail is. Gmail is the only service that offers two-factor authentication. That is, after you sign in with your password, you have to also enter a text verification code that you can receive through an SMS or a voice call.
On Outlook, however, you have a feature known as ‘single-use codes’. This is available on request when you are on an untrusted computer. You can ask Microsoft to send you an SMS code that you can use only once to sign into the account. This way, you will secure your actual password. In the same way, Outlook helps you prevent account thefts by incorporating your cell phone into your email account. This feature is already available in Gmail.
There are a few differences in message composition on these email services. The reply-to fields are auto-suggested by both Gmail and Outlook. On Outlook, however, you have tiny buttons next to each email address to edit or remove the particular email address.
The compose-message window on Gmail has the same look as the entire email interface, while Outlook has come up with a new message window with no sidebar with contacts or folders. The message editor that Microsoft has come up with is simpler with fewer options than Google’s. Copy-pasting text with rich formatting is easier on Gmail’s editor.
Adding attachments to the email is easier on Outlook.com. It gives an option to upload the files you attach to your SkyDrive online storage. Attaching images on Outlook gives an attractive thumbnail list on your message. Also, you can search for images with Bing search and add them directly to the email message. On the other hand, Gmail uses the popular Picasa Web for image management.
Social Media Updates
When it comes to Gmail, the only social media site that you can work with is Google+. Don’t worry about others as Google won’t give you any updates from them! No integration to Twitter or Facebook makes Gmail less favored in terms of social media integration. Also, G+ hasn’t yet become anywhere close to Twitter or Facebook in terms of popularity.
On the other hand, Microsoft has made its email service tightly integrated to Facebook and Twitter; hence, you will be able to notice Facebook and Twitter updates of a recognized sender on the sidebar, instead of ads (yes, that’s correct!)
Voice & Video Chat
You may know already that Gmail is the first email service to integrate chatting features through Google Talk. Later on, Google incorporated voice and video chat right from inside the email interface making the service a complete communication solution.
Outlook.com is the property of Microsoft, and so is Skype. Skype will manage voice and chat on Outlook.com. On the top of that, it's a popular service that provides free VoIP.
The radical innovations created by Gmail in terms of organizing the mail include labels and folders and different colors that can be applied to the labels to archive email messages. Besides the regular email folders, you can create new labels within Gmail and have an email message tagged under multiple labels. The labels can be nested too.
However, the most important and widely used feature of Gmail is probably the ‘starring of messages’. With Google Labs enabled, you can have stars in different colors and designs so that you have a colorful inbox that will give you great organization.
Also, recently Gmail has come up with features like ‘Priority Inbox’, and you can view email according to its importance.
Organization settings on Outlook.com are also comparable. In this area, it’s more or less about personal preferences. Some people want to create folders and others want to use labels.
You know Google as a search engine rather than an email service. Hence, when the best email service comes from Google, you expect it to have the best search feature as well. Google search within Gmail is spot-on. It will give you the email message that you are looking for quickly. Outlook uses Bing search engine for looking up messages and it’s not as great as Google.
Winner: Gmail (or Google search specifically)
Gmail is the native email program for Android. It has seamless support on all Android phones and all versions of the operating system. Since Android is the most widely used email platform today, this is a default win for Gmail. Besides this, Google has apps for all the other mobile operating systems for better integration to the Gmail service.
Outlook.com has impressive mobile connectivity with Windows Phone and Apple iOS. However, it’s not a competition to Gmail on mobile.
Gmail has the Labs feature integrated to the email service. This will enable the email service have extra features—apps running from within email, sidebar gadgets, colorful stars, multiple inboxes, and several others.
Spam filtering features on Gmail and Outlook are comparable. So far, we had excellent spam filter only on Gmail, but Microsoft has done an impressive job in their email service. Microsoft calls their spam filter ‘SmartScreen’. It also uses the input from users to generate an effective spam filter. You can interact with the spam filter by blocking unwanted email addresses. The advantage with Gmail is that it does all of this automatically and gives you a really intelligent spam filter.
Outlook integrates with MS Office pretty well, while Google Docs manages office documents on Gmail. In terms of features, you will reach a tie here. Both services are great.
Outlook gives you a feature called Active View (similar to ActiveX controls that can be used to embed executable code on a web page). With this feature, you can play videos from YouTube and images from image sharing sites like Flickr, from within a message.
In the war between email services, Gmail was a clear winner. Now, however, Outlook.com has come and made it difficult for Google to maintain the upper hand. Yahoo, on the other hand, has probably accepted defeat already. The future will tell us how Outlook progresses in terms of popularity.