The big Outlook.com push is finally about to kick off, with a concentrated advertising effort launching imminently. Before you run for the hills, however, it seems there’s a little life left in Hotmail yet.

Microsoft unveiled Outlook.com way back in July, a new email product that will eventually house the hundreds of millions of Hotmail users.

Thus far, the reception has been largely positive – it sailed past one million sign-ups on its first day, before going on to break the 25 million users mark a fortnight ago, just as it rolled out a native Android app, customizable themes a handful of other features.

While the new Outlook offering is certainly a compelling alternative to Gmail – something Microsoft is clearly positioning itself against – the big headache Microsoft faces is convincing people to make the leap over from Hotmail. People simply don’t like change.

Outlook Inbox ReadingPaneOpen 730x345 Microsofts big Outlook.com push begins next week, but Hotmail wont be phased out quite yet

Thus far, the switch has been entirely optional – users can continue using their Hotmail address on the Outlook.com domain, or they could get in early to nab a new @Outlook.com email address…the perfect time to upgrade from SurferBoy1978. But while Hotmail’s days are numbered, it seems that number may still be quite high, and there’s no immediate plans to kill it off completely.

The Next Web caught up with David Law, Director of Product Management at Outlook.com, to get the lowdown on Outlook. And it seems some Hotmail users will start seeing persuasive messages appear on their Hotmail accounts over this weekend, but the main push will begin next week.

Switch to Outlook…go on, go on, go on…

“We’ve kind of done it a little bit here and there, but we’re going to send an email and start using some of our own display advertising to actively reach out to Hotmail users,” says Law.

So, this means where you normally see the likes of Coca-Cola or L’Oreal, this real estate will be used to tell you all about the wonders of Outlook. But it will still be optional…Microsoft is being careful not to irk its users, after all, some of them will have had their quirky email addresses for nigh-on 15 years, and they may like the dated Hotmail layout.

Screenie Microsofts big Outlook.com push begins next week, but Hotmail wont be phased out quite yet

This will mainly be evident in big Hotmail territories such as the UK and Spain, but the campaign will extend to the US, Italy, Japan, Chile, India, Colombia, France, Singapore, Brazil, Peru, Germany, Australia, Argentina and Mexico.

“We want to make sure people know they don’t have to change their email address, or their password,” says Law. “Also, they won’t lose any emails or calendar entries….nothing changes, except they get the new UI.”

Indeed, Outlook is hosted and stored on a completely different server to that of Hotmail, and you do get the impression that Microsoft would love to just flick the switch. But at a time when Google is increasingly making moves that are sure to prove unpopular with some Gmail users, Microsoft is clearly being careful not to rock its own boat. Though Windows 8 is another story altogether.

But when will folk actually be shoehorned onto Outlook then…next week, next month, next year? The answer is, we don’t know exactly when this will happen, but it seems this certainly won’t be any time soon.

“Our goal is to get everyone over from Hotmail to Outlook,” says Law. “We’re going to push this quite a bit, as an optional upgrade. At some point, in the future, there will probably still be some old, stale accounts. And at some point, we will end up moving folks over.  It won’t be months, but we haven’t set a date for it yet. It’ll be longer term. The important thing for us is to get the word out there as quickly as we can.”

So there won’t be a forced upgrade quite yet, but the message will be loud and clear: Microsoft want you on Outlook.

That said, Microsoft will also continue to let users switch back to their old Hotmail interface and, strangely, it’s still actually possible to sign up for a new address on the old Hotmail domain. So grab your SurferBoyxxxx@Hotmail.com email address while you still can.

Feature Image Credit – Thinkstock