Microsoft has begun testing a premium version of its Outlook email service, a paid subscription service for $3.99 a month, according to an updated page on the company’s website. The service, which is currently available via invite, grants subscribers five personalized email addresses with custom domains, an ad-free outlook experience, and improved calendar sharing capabilities.
The pilot program was initially launched as a free add-on for selected Office 365 Home users, but the Redmond, Wash. based company is expanding the trial so customers can access the special program without having to pay $100 a year subscription. The program also differs from the simple ad-free Outlook option, which is available for $20 per year.
The tech giant says that the subscription email service will work with those users who purchased Office 365 Home with a personalized email address. By adding the service, users can invite four other people to create personal emails on this account.
Users who choose to sign up for Outlook Premium will get the service entirely free for the first year. After that, it will be $3.99 per month, which is a little more than the simple ad-free version but half the cost of Office 365 Home, for users who don’t need Word, Excel, and Powerpoint.
At $3.99 per month, the offer seems really good for small businesses and freelancers. For instance, Google’s Gmail for work app with a custom domain and the additional tools and features that Gmail users get is priced at $5 per user per month in the US.
Microsoft has partnered with GoDaddy to handle the custom domains, which allow users to pick personal domain names to serve as more professional email addresses rather than @outlook.com, @live.com or @hotmail.com. Previously the company provided custom domains in Outlook.com, but since 2014, it hasn’t accepted any new signups for the program.
Microsoft has not made any formal announcement about the service, though earlier it did confirm that the program was an experiment and not an existing offering. With no formal launch date, interested users are not able to request an invite to try out the service.
Given that this is a pilot program, it is prone to changes. In case of any negative feedback, the program could be completely scrapped. There could be variation in the price also and if the company plans on including additional charges for the Office 365 users it could turn out to be a pricey affair.