Rather than creating an in-house social networking tool like the thus-far-catastrophic e-disaster more commonly known as Google Buzz, Microsoft (news, site) has decided to integrate the elite right into their own platform.
Introducing LinkedIn, Facebook and Myspace for Outlook 2010:
The Outlook Social Connector
Social networking within e-mail isn’t a brand new idea; Outlook’s Social Connector (OSC) was first touched on by Microsoft in November of last year. The addition aims to be enterprise-y by connecting people with their colleagues in a familiar environment.
"We don't want this to sort of be the next great time waster in the workplace," pointed out Will Kennedy, a corporate vice president for the Office group.
- The People Pane A name, picture, and title for your colleagues whenever reading a message from them.
- Rich history See a communications history for each person that sends you messages with access to the most recent messages and attachments.
- Activities Download and see real-time activity for your colleagues from business and social networks.
- Get friendly Request someone as a colleague or friend with one click. Synchronize those colleagues with Outlook and keep them up-to-date as their information changes.
- SharePoint 2010 Connect to the new MySite social networking experience right out of the box with the OSC & SharePoint 2010.
- Extensible A public SDK allows anyone to build a connection to business or consumer social networks.
LinkedIn for Outlook
LinkedIn for Outlook allows Office 2010 Beta users to connect the OSC to a public network for the first time. By doing so, you can take advantage of all that niftyness mentioned above. Yes, this means you can view your LinkedIn colleagues’ status updates and photos next to the e-mail messages they sent you.
Also, in case you haven't put two and two together, it also means that when a colleague updates their contact information in LinkedIn, their contact info is automatically updated within Outlook. The same goes for phones synced with Outlook—contact info from the Web is automatically synchronized with your mobile.
Facebook and Myspace Partnerships
Even though Kennedy says Microsoft doesn’t want the OSC to be viewed as a time waster, they’ve sprinkled some popular social networking platforms in as well. The integration of Facebook and Myspace offers all the same perks that the addition of LinkedIn does:
Says the official Microsoft Outlook blog: “Our vision for Outlook (and the OSC) is to provide a communications hub that is vital to both professional and personal communications; by integrating with both Facebook and MySpace, Outlook 2010 enables you to connect not only to co-workers and colleagues, but with all of your friends and family within your Outlook Inbox.”
It's kind of a big deal now, wouldn't you say? And as hard as Microsoft tries to convince us all that this connector isn't a time-waster, it's highly unlikely it'll be seen that way--at least, in part. However, there two points of interest with this approach: The inclusion of LinkedIn will surely attract the fickle enterprise, and could be the one tick that equals staying power for this tool. Secondly, Microsoft didn't mess around with in-house solutions. This may or may not be Google's biggest mistake with Buzz (other than the whole privacy thing), as it seems people love them some Facebook and Twitter time (note: there's no talk of being able to push information towards Twitter or Facebook from within Outlook yet).
Are we ready for everything Google, or is a combination of our favorites the golden ticket? It'll be interesting to watch these two solutions compete.
Get started by downloading Office 2010 Beta.