Microsoft's longstanding free email service is getting an overhaul to keep pace with Gmail, which has been steadily gaining market share over the pioneer.

So Hotmail users, which number close to 325 million, will have to say goodbye to the tried and true email service and prepare to usher in Outlook, another old name, but loaded with new features.

The new Outlook, says Microsoft, will be cleaner, sharper and safer from spam with the added bonus of social network links to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ accounts.

"Email isn't just about the browser anymore," blogged Microsoft's Chris Jones in a July 31st post. "In fact, email represents 20% of the time we spend on smartphones, and is used extensively on tablets as well as PCs. Outlook is designed cloud first, so all of your mail is always available wherever you are. Its fresh, clean user interface gets the clutter out of your way -- the header has 60% fewer pixels and there are 30% more messages visible in your inbox." uses Exchange ActiveSync to power mail, calendar and people experience on smartphones and tablets, added Jones.

Microsoft finds that newsletters, various offers, daily deals and social updates make up over 80 percent of a typical inbox, and is building a service that will automatically detect these sorts of messages and place them in separate folders.

Expect the new Outlook to work seamlessly with Microsoft's other products including SkyDrive storage, Skype, and its Office Web Apps, when it becomes fully available in the next few months.

Hotmail users may start migrating to the new format and keep their existing email addresses with their inboxes and all their contacts in tact.

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