Microsoft; the biggest rabbit is out of its hat!

Long gone are the days where you have to hide the fact that you still have a Hotmail account so as not to sound like you’re still stuck in the T-Rex of ages. Microsoft seems to have pulled the biggest rabbit out of their hat, so big that it might even compel you to ditch Gmail for it!

The world’s first webmail service, launch in 1996, is receiving a whole new overhaul. Who are we kidding though; who would actually want to be working on anything Hotmail related? Bring it up over coffee with old friends might turn you into the mockery of the outing; let’s not say putting it on your business card! Do you ever remember the last time you logged in?

So how did Microsoft turn the tarnished name into its old glory days? Well, the Redmond-based software giant announced today a preview of , which is basically the avant-garde of webmail services, incorporating Metro UI as well as social integration. This is definitely a smart move by Microsoft as means of brining back their old Outlook email client onto PCs with the webmail service.

So what’s the biggest change in you ask? The user interface is certainly easy on the eyes, clearly following the directions put forth by the Metro UI guidelines. Microsoft prides itself with the many extra pixels offered if compared to Gmail. The screen is it’s definitely slimmer than its competitors and divided into three columns– search, folders and other action elements on the left; the message copy in the center and a people column on the right that shows the latest updates, IM exchanges and other details.

The perfectionists among us can spread the whole inbox in a vertical stack. Or better yet, use the “reading pane”; this will split your screen into two sections: inbox overview and a live view of every column, resembling the iPad email management. The reading pane can be put down the inbox list as well as an alternative. All three ways are incredibly quick to load and work magnificently well. One browsing tab and three beautifully designed ways to maneuver; now this is smart.

Microsoft states that this is in fact the first email service to actually integrate social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and eventually Skype. So, Skype calls will be able to be made directly from Outlook. Threaded email is activated by default.

The biggest pet peeve that has hindered the experience for many users was the inability to open attachments from let’s say – word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote- edit them and send them back as email. SkyDrive support is also enabled, so that users can upload heavy attachments to the cloud service without worrying about attachment size limits.

An enhanced spam control is now also introduced, one that can differentiate between important emails, newsletter, shipping updates and junk mail and from there on placing them where they belong.

Mocking Google, Microsoft deliberately states that it does not scan mails or attachments for embedded purposes such as serving ads in mails: “Email is private and confidential, and most folks we’ve talked to want to keep it that way. So we keep your personal email personal. We don’t scan your email content or attachments and sell this information to advertisers or any other company, and we don’t show ads in personal conversations,” says Chris Jones, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of Windows Live.

Existing Hotmail users can simply upgrade to by selecting the upgrade option from their Hotmail settings. They have the option to retain their same account id with or get a new alias. Others can go to and simply create a new account.

Be part of the smart crowd and download G Cloud today; it’s free!