(Image credit: Apartment Therapy )
Ages ago I abandoned the horrific SPAM-filled mess that was then known as Hotmail. The webmail service was not only rife with junk mail that wandered freely into my inbox no matter how strict the filters set up, but also suffered from a horrible design which made skimming the inbox an eye-debilitating exercise. Say "goodbye" to Hotmail and "hello" to a freshly minted Outlook that may give Google's Gmail a run for it's money (and your inbox).

Once you're using Outlook.com, you can also set it up on your phone (Windows Phone, iPhone, Android, Blackberry, or other phone), tablet (Windows 8, iPad, and Android), in the new Outlook 2013 Preview, or in other mail apps you might use. And because Outlook.com supports Exchange ActiveSync, you can set it up just like you would your Exchange or Hotmail account.

Like Microsoft's Windows Phone platform, Outlook.com has users' social network lives in mind. Outlook.com is the first email service to integrate social connections via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google, and eventually Skype. As an avid Windows Phone user who LOVES the one-stop contact updates and info streams offered to the mobile platform, it makes absolute sense Microsoft would extend the stream of connectivity to webmail.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy )

Partnered with Skydrive and Office Web Apps, Outlook.com is an obvious and ambitious stab at Google's dominance in cloud-based document and contact sharing across multiple devices, aligning pieces for the release of Windows 8 in the coming weeks. Subjectively speaking, I'm liking Microsoft's webmail interface just a smidgen over GMail's recently refreshed look, but admittedly haven't had time to put it through the ringer on a daily nose-to-the-grindstone work day.

Notable: email content or attachments aren't scanned and sold to advertisers (ahem, Google), and additional features like "automatic unsubscribe" and scheduled clean-up make Outlook.com a viable alternative as a either a primary or secondary email account (we already like to use Gmail and Live.com for non-essential communications).

Outlook.com is currently in public beta, so now is a good time to sign up so you can nab the email account name of your choice instead of Bob3457@outlook.com, Jeanette474@outlook.com or something similarly undesirable to your actual name. Try the preview by going to http://www.outlook.com/.