Microsoft’s new Gmail rival, Outlook.com, is already seeing healthy sign-up figures, but first day glow may well give way to apathy as users find themselves too committed to existing messaging providers. The revamped Hotmail replacement saw 1m sign-ups in just over 6hrs yesterday, after Microsoft pulled back the curtains on its initial “preview” of the service, but a longer-term impact on the webmail market is still far from guaranteed.
Microsot’s stat announcement was short and to the point, confirming the initial takeup as early-adopters flocked to reserve their preferred @outlook.com username. More detailed numbers are still in short supply, however; it’s not clear how many of those sign-ups are existing Hotmail or Windows Live Mail users switching over to the new service, and how many were new to Outlook.com.
Even those new users may not return after their first visit. High profile online services inevitably see a rush for registration, as curious users try to stake their claim to their first choice of username. Whether they will then actively use Outlook.com remains to be seen, though.
Microsoft makes importing contacts, messages and other details from Gmail or other rival mail providers straightforward, but that still leaves the matter of updating everyone you know – and every service you use – to your new email address. Even existing Hotmail and Live Mail users won’t be automatically switched to an @outlook.com address, that being an optional step beyond changing to the new interface.
The expectation is that, while Outlook.com is very good at first glance, existing commitment to services like Gmail, Google Docs and the like may prove too sticky to lure users away full-time. Admittedly Microsoft’s platform has not shown its very best yet; there’s still Skype integration to come, after all, though it will have to compete with Gmail’s already-released Google+ Hangouts video chats which support group calls.
Gmail has the benefit of Android to help drive adoption; a Google account is pretty much mandatory if you want to get the best out an Android device. Microsoft’s own Windows Phone hasn’t reached the same tipping point to drive registrations to its services, though that could be swayed when Windows Phone 8 is released later this year.
1m initial sign-ups in less than a day of operation is admirable, but Outlook.com is only at the first step of a long road. Even Facebook, with its millions of members, had to resort to profile trickery to try to raise awareness of its own email system (though later argued that had been the work of a bug rather than an intentional push for Facebook Mail). It’s clear that 1m people probably won’t be using Outlook.com tomorrow; what remains to be seen is exactly how many can be kept enchanted weeks down the line, as Microsoft attempts to reboot its cloud services.