A surprising number of frustrated Gmail users have found a cleaner, more intuitive Web-based email client in the newer Outlook.com. Microsoft’s webmail recently got a boost when the software maker switched millions of Hotmail users to its new, clean highly functional email service, but now Gmail users have one less barrier to making the switch—the ability to chat with the Google chat service built into Gmail as well as with the Google Talk desktop program.
The folks behind Outlook.com have been busy. In April, they announced that integrated Skype video chatting was starting to roll out to users in the U.K., to be followed by U.S. users. A couple weeks before that, a redesigned Outlook.com Android app made its debut, in response to Google’s pulling support for Exchange ActiveSync server. The day after that release, the team announced two-step verification and the ability to sign in with an alias.
Microsoft’s senior director of product management for Outlook.com, Dharmesh Mehta, told PCMag.com that the Google Chat integration would make for one less sticking point for those considering making the switch from Gmail. “Our goal is to make email faster, easier, and more productive,” said Mehta. “The core thing we’ve heard is around text chat. Including this in Outlook.com is one more thing supporting choice.”
The new Outlook.com chat feature won’t support Google video chat. Mehta said that when users were asked about video chatting, Skype was their main concern.
The new chat capability will take advantage of Outlook.com’s chat sidebar, which opens up a chat pane on the right of the interface, at the tap of a talk-bubble icon. From that same panel, users can already chat with their Facebook contacts. Hooking up Google Chat will require authentication with the Google account, even for users who have added their Gmail inbox to Outlook.com.
The capability will start rolling out to Outlook.com users today, and will only take a couple days to be available to all 400 million of the service’s users, according to Mehta. You can read more about the new feature on Microsoft’s Outlook blog. For an in-depth look at Microsoft’s new web email service, read PCMag’s review of Outlook.com.