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(Pocket-lint) - Microsoft has announced that it's finally pulling the plug on Hotmail, the service it bought in 1997 for about $400m from founders Sabeer Bhatia and Jack Smith.

To be fair, this sounds more dramatic than the reality, which is that the user interface is now Outlook online, rather than that outdated Hotmail style that feels like it's barely changed in the 16 years the service has been running.

Microsoft is keen to point out that users will log in with the same username and password, and hotmail.com address will remain unchanged.

The good news is that if you fancy a new outlook.com ID you can register for one right now. The conversion from Hotmail over to Outlook will take place slowly, and will finish in the summer. Users eager to escape the ageing Hotmail look can "opt-in" and get on the new Outlook service straight away.


There are also some interesting stats that Microsoft has published. Apparently, there are now 60 million active users worldwide of what is said to be the fastest-growing email service. Microsoft says one third of new users are "upgrading" from Gmail or are coming to the service fresh. And 25 million people have apparently shared half a billion files with SkyDrive to boot.

All in all, this is a big year for Microsoft. It's killing off its Messenger service too from April and users will be forced to move over to Skype. All of this will bring quite a lot of services together under one umbrella. Anyone with a Microsoft account will suddenly be able to use it across Windows Phone, Xbox, Outlook.com, Office, Windows 8, SkyDrive and Skype, making Microsoft second only to Google in the single sign-on stakes.

If, as for us, Hotmail was the first web-based email service you used, then it's likely you'll be a little bit moist in the eyes about this whole thing. Hotmail was never slick enough to compete with Gmail, but Outlook brings a raft of new features and fairly substantial usability enhancements too. So goodbye Hotmail, we hardly knew ye.

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Writing by Ian Morris.
Sections Microsoft Apps