Looking at the impending makeover of Hotmail, I have to say I’m impressed.
Recalling reasons why many of us switched to GMail (away from Yahoo Mail, natch) – it wasn’t about brand, or thinking Google was cooler. It was a great product with soft innovations that just made web-based email much easier to use. And yes, it took the other guys a long time to catch up on the storage issue, which gave Google a nice head start.
If Hotmail comes out with a completely revamped product that does most of what GMail does, and adds certain features like editing Office docs in the same environment, and shutting off ads for $20/yr., that sounds exactly like the type of product I’d use, or at least mess around with.
Will the majority of users leap at the opportunity to shut off ads for $20/year? No, only a small minority will.
Will I switch, if I do a head-to-head test and find Hotmail coming out slightly ahead of GMail? Probably not. It’s not about perception or brand — it’s because switching is inconvenient.
But in terms of slowing Hotmail’s decline in market share, and gaining new casual users, this product development is essential. It’s heartening to see Microsoft’s progress in this vertical. Hotmail is one of the most widely-used applications on the planet. Making it better matters to a lot of users.