It really isn’t that big a deal, but www.hotmail.com is gone. Now it re-directs to www.outlook.com in Microsoft’s move to consolidate their web-based email server with the branding of their email client. Not a bad move I suppose, but there’s something a little depressing and dark surrounding the change.
I’ve had a Hotmail account since 1997, it was my first personal email account. I’ve picked up several other accounts over the years, but most I’ve closed out or I have not checked for years. Now I have not lost anything, Microsoft kept the accounts active and moved them over to Outlook. And it seems to work pretty well, even (surprisingly) on computers that are not top-of-the-line fast anymore. It shares the look of the latest version of Outlook available by itself or bundled with Word and Excel in the Microsoft Office package, meaning it shares the look of the most widely used email client in the world.
So if I didn’t lose anything and its better… why do I not like the change?
Well, small reasons, like muscle memory. I can type the URL for Hotmail in less than a second. I’ve been checking the account almost daily for 16 years now. And I always type it first before remembering its Outlook now. And Hotmail (and previous versions of Outlook) shared a similar look and design to the classic “icon and Window” look that Microsoft has been refining since Windows 3.1 (back in the early 90’s.) But the latest Windows OS is Windows 8, and it sports a radically different design. Less “icon and window” and more “touch tile” like the interface on a smartphone or tablet computer. And the new Outlook’s design seems to be making that change as well.
So I don’t like it because it’s a branding change, and its promoting Microsoft’s newest operating system. Which has followed far to close on the heels of the successful and stable Windows 7, and is designed to create even more revenue through microtransactions and selling programs through their own Microsoft “app store” that’s right there on your desktop. Microsoft is claiming its better in this and that… and I’m sure there are improvements, but it’s an unnecessary cash grab and I can’t really get behind it. Windows even attempted (or will follow through) with only releasing DirectX 11 to Windows 8. That will affect a lot of users as all games and many other programs require DirectX (so new games will require DX 11) essentially holding your computer hostage, disallowing even 3rd party new software, until you upgrade to Win 8.
I don’t begrudge a company an honest profit. But Microsoft is going a ways past honest. They are walking the antitrust law tightrope and even if their business practices are legal… they are without question manipulative, punitive, and unethical. Oh, and if you are an Apple person you’re not any better off. Microsoft is just adopting business practices that Apple has been using for years already.
So it’s bigger than just a new URL for my webmail client. It’s the start of a change away from winning customers by providing better services, in favor of winning by squeezing every penny you can from a customer base that is becoming more and more dependent on your services. Forcing them to buy upgrades for products they don't need and didn't ask for.
Just look at Microsoft’s latest commercial for Windows 8. The tag line is… “don’t fight it, just switch.”