Microsoft drops Hotmail for Outlook

Microsoft is switching its free email service Hotmail to Outlook.com

Micorsoft is dropping Hotmail, the free webmail service it has used since acquring it in 1998, and replacing it with Outlook.com

The new Outlook.com email offers a cleaner, less obtrusive interface than Hotmail, is fully integrated with both Windows and Office and allows users to access their Twitter, Gmail, Facebook and LinkedIn contacts.

Microsoft says the new service takes away display ads and large search boxes and will help users avoid junkmail. Outlook.com will also sort messages into different folders, seprating emails from contacts, newsletters, social media and notices. It's likely more features will be added as the service's userbase continues to grow.

The Outlook preview is live today and and users can access it at www.outlook.com. Anyone who wishes to switchto Outlook.com from their Hotmail address simply have to click the 'upgrade to Outlook.com' tab in the options menu. The service has reportedly garnered 1 million accounts in just 6 hours - although this could be Hotmail users who have been migrated across to the new system.

Chris Jones, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of Windows Live said on the company's blog, “We think the time is right to reimagine personal email, from the datacenter to the user experience,”

The move is clearly part of a rebranding exercise to bring Microsoft's free-to-use email service in line with its office email brand, Outlook. It's also an attempt by Microsoft to stave off competition from Gmail, which is the fastest growing free web-based email service at the moment.