Microsoft targets Gmail with

Forget about Yahoo, Hotmail and Gmail – Redmond wants to be a real email contender with

“We think the time is right to re-imagine personal email, from the datacenter to the user experience. [Remember], email isn’t just about the browser anymore,” explained Microsoft VP Chris Jones.

“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.”

According to Jones, boasts a cleaner UI, less intrusive ads and new connections to social media sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Skype.

“Your personal email comes alive with photos of your friends, recent status updates and Tweets that your friend has shared with you, the ability to chat and video call – all powered by an always up-to-date contact list that is connected to your social networks,” he said.

“And, of course, you are in control of your experience – what you share, the networks you connect to, and your personal information.” 

Jones also noted that includes free Office Web Apps – Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote – which allows users to view and edit attachments without leaving their inbox. 

As expected, is packaged with the SkyDrive, so users sending photos and documents can now put them in the cloud without worrying about attachment limits. 

A preview of is available here.