So Microsoft launched a new email service today -- not a redesigned version of Hotmail, but a completely new, built-from-the-ground-up service. It's called Outlook.com, and for now, at least, it will exist separately from Hotmail, as Microsoft attempts to distance itself from Hotmail's bad rap. As it happens, the email features are basically the same across the two services, but from a visual standpoint, Outlook.com is everything Hotmail is not: where Hotmail has distracting banners and video ads, Outlook's are discreet. Indeed, you won't find any targeted ads on conversations with individual people (newsletters and such are still fair game). In lieu of those creepy personalized ads, you'll see quick access to Twitter and Facebook, where you can retweet and like things, as well as post comments. Skype integration is coming too (finally!), though that feature isn't live today. Most importantly, though, it brings a fresh, minimal interface designed to lure away Gmail users who wouldn't have otherwise given Hotmail the time of day.
Outlook.com is open to the public starting today. You can create a new account or sign in using an existing Hotmail address. Though it's still in its preview phase, anyone can sign up (read: no invites necessary). Storage is "virtually" unlimited -- Microsoft doesn't want to promise potential spammers a limitless account -- and anyone creating a Microsoft account for the first time gets the usual 7GB of complimentary SkyDrive storage. Hit up that source link if you want check it out yourself, and then head over to our in-depth preview for detailed impressions and screenshots galore.