Google, meanwhile, has announced it's dumping Gmail video chat for Google+ Hangouts. "Unlike the old video chat, which was based on peer-to-peer technology, Hangouts utilize the power of Google's network to deliver higher reliability and enhanced quality. You'll be able to chat with all the same people you did before and, in fact, with Hangouts you'll now be able to reach them not only when they are using Gmail but also if they are on Google+ in the browser or on their Android or iOS devices," wrote Fred Brewin, product manager at Google.
To Google's credit, it's not forcing Gmail users to become Google+ users in order to take advantage of Hangouts, which is capable of supporting video chat among as many as 10 users at once. However, users with Google+ accounts have access to additional features, including screen sharing, collaboration on Google documents, and the ability to view YouTube videos together.
That level of integration demonstrates that Google is making good on its pledge to bring enterprise social-collaboration features to Google+, which the service has sorely lacked since it first launched.
It will be interesting to see which company's email gambit will bear the most fruit. Google's advantage lies in the fact that it's bringing its own social network to the party, whereas Microsoft has to rely on integrating with third-party offerings a la Facebook, LinkedIn, and so forth.
On the other hand, Facebook has more users than Google+, so Outlook.com's integration with Facebook -- the ability to see your friends' status messages, to post to their walls, and to chat with them via mail service -- may give it broader appeal.
Not to mention the addition of Google+ Hangouts to Gmail is pretty significant: The video-calling tool has earned praise and is increasing in popularity. Microsoft still has to demonstrate that Skype -- the company's potential answer to Hangouts -- can integrate effectively with Outlook.com (along with all of Microsoft's other products). But based on the early returns, longtime Hotmail and SkyDrive users have to like the direction Microsoft is headed.
This story, "Microsoft's new Outlook.com takes aim at Gmail," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.