The launch of Outlook personal mail service by Microsoft is a masterstroke, from all perspectives, that visibly kills many birds with just one throw.
It promptly de-incentivizes churn from Hotmail to non-Microsoft mail services, communicates a unified communications roadmap better than most of the competition, makes the most easily understandable cloud statement ever, and prepares ground for doing much more. 
The social mail appeal: Outlook is without doubt a next-generation email service, and has the features and the potential to draw users from Gmail and Yahoo! Mail just as the competition has successfully attracted users away from Hotmail over the past several years. In particular, its integration with leading social media platforms like FacebookLinkedIn and YouTube could be a big draw with Gen Y and Z users, more so as it doesn’t make them wary of being led into yet another social media activity. In fact, assuming that Hotmail and Outlook would coexist for a reasonably long period, their combined user bases could potentially push Microsoft to the top. (See also
Big stride towards UC: The promised integration with Skype, along with the inherent presence and calendaring features as well as the new social media integration, could make the unified communication offering in Outlook really very strong and more importantly, cost effective and easy to use. With more and more Windows Phone devices in users’ hands, that could give Microsoft overall some good and steady gains.
Explains cloud intuitively: Outlook has been the most widely deployed and used email application across industries and geographies. Putting that application on the web or the cloud instantly communicates and exemplifies the cloud model for other Microsoft applications as well. That would make it a ready-for-reference proof-of-concept for Microsoft when engaging potential customers for its various cloud-based services. (See also

Now the most important part of all: none of the above could have been argued had Microsoft employed for this anything other than Outlook, let alone Hotmail. Moreover, one hardly saw this coming, especially after the interests Microsoft had exhibited in Yahoo! from time to time. And that’s one more reason why the move is a masterstroke!

(This article was first published in Lightreading. See This post has some minor updates.)
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