Innovation has a funny way of stoking our desire for even more innovation, no matter how thrilled we are with the original product. Remember how amazing the concept of HoTMail initially was? Indeed, it was amazing at its 1996 launch, when there had never before been personal email addresses, independent of one’s business or Internet service provider. Over the years, upgrades to webmail have been made – from increased storage capacity to search features and more – but while features have evolved, the user’s functional experience has not.

However, the user’s functional needs have. With newsletters, social updates and email marketing inundating the average person’s inbox, personal email management has become a job. And because people increasingly maintain personal connections through social channels, email address books have gathered cobwebs in recent years. New technologies and ways of interacting have fueled consumer preference for a cleaner, less cumbersome and more connected email experience.

Enter, Outlook.com. In July, Microsoft introduced Outlook.com in preview form as a personal email service that reimagines the way that people use email – from a streamlined appearance, to fewer and less obtrusive ads, to new connections to social media platforms including Facebook and Twitter. This isn’t an upgrade. It’s a completely new vision for email for those who don’t simply want something new, they want something fundamentally better.

It’s the first significant improvement to cloud mail in eight years, according to Chris Jones, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of Windows Live. Jones said Outlook.com, which builds off the power of the Outlook people have grown to rely on with their PCs and Macs, has a fresh, clean user interface that cuts inbox and ad clutter. What’s more, it works well where today’s users access email – their smartphones, tablets, and the new Outlook 2013 Preview.

Intrigued and want even more detail? These new Outlook.com features will change the way you think about, use and enjoy (yes, enjoy) email:

  • Instant show time: Photo emails are brought to life with slideshows that launch directly out of Outlook.com with one click.
  • Intuitive chatting. From anywhere on Outlook.com, customers can chat with friends who are using Facebook Chat or Outlook.
  • Safe, secure document management. Outlook.com, with the power of Office and SkyDrive, enables you to to open, edit and share Word, Excel and PowerPoint files from anywhere (and directly from your Inbox) with full fidelity.
  • Automatic contact updates. For an up-to-date address book, the latest contact info that friends share on Facebook and LinkedIn is integrated into Outlook.com.
  • Video chat access. Skype will be coming to Outlook.com soon, so people can video call Skype or Outlook friends, even if neither has the Skype client installed.

Outlook.com is ready now to become your primary email service, whether you currently have a Hotmail account, hold an account with a different email provider or don’t have an email address at all. And once you're on Outlook.com, you can integrate it with your preferred devices, including Windows Phone, iPhone, Android, Blackberry and Windows 8, iPad, and Android tablets.

In the past, email service providers have stayed the course (with occasional upgrades) and expected users to want what they had. With Outlook.com, Microsoft brings users the email functionality they have told us they want and that fits their lives, rather than the other way around. Innovative, right?