Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Microsoft's Outlook Takes Aim at Gmail Internet Services Battle for Market Share

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Microsoft's Outlook Takes Aim at Gmail Internet Services Battle for Market Share

Article excerpt

SAN FRANCISCO -- Microsoft is so confident that it has the Internet's best email service that it is about to spend at least $30 million to send its message across the United States.

The barrage began Tuesday, when Microsoft's twist on email, Outlook.com, escalated an assault on rival services from Google Inc., Yahoo Inc., AOL Inc. and a long list of Internet service providers.

As part of the process, all users of Microsoft's Hotmail and other email services operating under different domains such as MSN.com will be automatically converted to Outlook.com by summer, if they don't voluntarily switch sooner. All the old messages, contacts and settings in the old inboxes will be exported to Outlook.com. Users will also be able to keep their old addresses.

Email remains a key battleground, even at a time when more people are texting each other.

People still regularly check their inboxes, albeit increasingly on smartphones. The recurring email habit provides Internet companies a way to keep people coming back to websites. People log in during their email visits, so it's easier for providers to track their activities. Frequent visits and personal identification are two keys to selling ads, the main way most websites make money.

That's why Microsoft, Google and Yahoo have been retooling email services in recent months.

After keeping Outlook.com in a "preview" phase since July 31, Microsoft Corp. is ready to accept all comers. To welcome new users, it is financing what it believes to be the biggest marketing blitz in the history of email.

Outlook.com will be featured in ads on prime-time TV, radio stations, websites, billboards and buses. Microsoft expects to spend $30 million to $90 million on the Outlook campaign, to run at least three months.

The Outlook ads will overlap with an anti-Gmail marketing campaign Microsoft launched earlier this month. The "Scroogled" attacks depict Gmail as a snoopy service that scans messages' contents to deliver ads tied to topics being discussed.

The Gmail ads are meant to be educational, while the Outlook campaign is motivational, said Outlook.com senior director Dharmesh Mehta. "We are trying to push people who have gotten lazy and comfortable with an email service that may not be all that great," he said, "and help show them what email can really do for them."

By Microsoft's own admission, Hotmail had lost the competitive edge that once made it the world's largest email service. Its lack of innovation left an opening for Google when it unveiled Gmail nearly nine years ago. Gmail now leads the industry, though estimates of its popularity vary.

Google says Gmail has more than 425 million accountholders, including those that visit only on smartphones and other mobile devices. …

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