Microsoft has added Google Chat to support its Webmail email service Outlook.com in hopes of converting Gmail users. Users can log in with their Google account, see their Google contact list along the right rail of the e-mail window and begin chatting with those contacts right from Outlook.com.
The service will roll out worldwide this week. The integration demonstrates support for users rather than a long-term rivalry. Microsoft introduced Outlook.com in July to replace Hotmail.com. Since then, it built in Skype and Facebook chat, but said that support for Google Chat was one more feature that users requested.
The email service also now provides unique features, such as two-step verification for accounts, international domains for email addresses, a preview of Skype calling and integration with SkyDrive. It supports Sweep, which sends newsletters, daily deal or social media alert emails into their own folder.
Aside from the Google Chat feature, updates from the redesigned calendar and Android app, to SMTP send capability, and Skype and SkyDrive integrations are available in response to feedback that Microsoft hears from customers.
Microsoft designed Outlook.com as a "modern email" platform that will scale to a billion people, according to a company spokesperson, who emphasized the need to give consumers a choice, rather than force them to switch services.
"We believe you should have choice in who you chat with, and that your email should work with the things you're using," the Microsoft spokesperson said.
Outlook.com allows you to chat (or not) with your Google, Facebook and Skype friends.
Earlier this month, Microsoft estimated support for about 400 million active Outlook.com accounts, including 125 million that access email, calendar and contacts on a mobile device using Exchange ActiveSync. But Microsoft isn't the only Webmail system to gain acceptance or link together multiple services.
Industry insiders expect Google to roll out its own updates to Gmail and video chat at the I/O conference this week. There have been rumors about a unified messaging platform dubbed Babel that would combine Google Talk, Messenger and Hangouts.