Can Gmail and Yahoo fend off

Users tend to be loyal to their email service, so Microsoft needs to come on strong

By , Computerworld |  On-demand Software, Yahoo, email

With Microsoft making a big push with its free email service, Google's Gmail and Yahoo Mail suddenly have a serious new rival.

Microsoft plans to begin moving Hotmail users to, which reportedly already has 60 million active users since the preview was released last July. The move to Hotmail is expected to be completed by summer.

The migration isn't supposed to disrupt Hotmail users, with their email address, password, messages, folders, contacts, rules and other features automatically moving to

With the addition of Hotmail users to, the service will have a large built-in user base.

"By default, it already is a major email service because it takes over for Hotmail, which remained a major mail system," said Rob Enderle, an analyst with the Enderle Group. "The thing with mail, though, is people don't shift easily, because once folks know their email addresses, they don't want to change them."

Because Gmail is a strong and sticky brand, users won't be quick to abandon it for another service. That means would have to offer something more to make people switch.

"Defense is far easier than offense and Google should be able to do this," said Enderle. "Microsoft left Hotmail languishing for a long time and it bled users. This has to be reversed, and getting people to switch will not only take advancing the product but marketing it heavily."

Yahoo Mail, which hasn't had significant backing from Yahoo or significant user interest in recent years, could be more at risk than sturdier Gmail.

"Yahoo Mail hasn't had much investment over the years and is the most vulnerable," said Enderle. "I wouldn't be surprised if Yahoo and Microsoft came to some kind of agreement, like they did with search, so that Yahoo didn't have to continue to fund mail."

Microsoft's Bing search engine already powers Yahoo's sites.

Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy, said has a good chance of being a significant rival to both Gmail and Yahoo Mail -- if it makes some upgrades.

Originally published on Computerworld |  Click here to read the original story.
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