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Outlook.com replaces Hotmail, breaks Windows Phone services

Outlook.com is Microsoft's new look for email. But Windows Phone customers shouldn't switch their address just yet.

Microsoft has a new email service -- Outlook.com has launched, and will eventually replace popular browser-based service Hotmail.

Outlook.com borrows the clean Metro-infused look that's already present on its mobile platform and is about to go mainstream with Windows 8. As Microsoft explains on its official blog, if you already have a Live or Hotmail account you can sign in using that, and if you want, you can change your existing email address to one ending in outlook.com.

Windows Phone users should hold fire on this, however -- while many Microsoft employees enthusiasts will be keen to change their existing address to a new one, when you go to make the switch, the Powerpoint-addled corporation warns, "On your phone, features that use this address will stop working, including Marketplace, Xbox LIVE, SkyDrive, email and others.

"To use these features again on your phone," Microsoft continues, "you'd need to restore it to factory settings, which erases all personal content."

In other words, despite Windows Phone being Microsoft's own operating system, changing your phone's Microsoft-brand email address to an Outlook.com one will bork several major apps.

Dismaying stuff, especially for Windows Phone enthusiasts. A question also hangs over whether Microsoft will be able to keep its new toy free of spam -- the service currently prompts new users to verify their humanity using a nigh-on unreadable captcha code, with a broken audio tip that, as ZDNet's Rupert Goodwins points out, sounds like being trapped down a well with an experimental yodeler and his synth keyboard.

So, a few teething problems, but with the official Twitter account raving that the service has already attracted 1 million sign-ups, Outlook.com could eventually prove a decent Gmail alternative for those who are into Microsoft's other services, like Skydrive or Windows Phone. You can also add contacts from social networks, including Facebook.

Microsoft has (optimistically) provided step-by-step instructions for those who want to switch from Gmail to the new service, so examine this page if you're looking to make the jump. Hotmail will eventually be replaced completely by Outlook.com.

What do you think of the new service? Is it better than Hotmail? Let me know in the comments or on our Facebook wall.