Outlook Links To Facebook, Windows Live Messenger

Microsoft has added Facebook and Windows Live Messenger to the Outlook Social Connector component built into Microsoft Office 2010, giving Outlook users the ability to connect the in-box with the two social networks. Additionally, the software giant unleashed Outlook Social Connector as a downloadable plug-in for the 2003 and 2007 editions of Microsoft Office.

Starting Tuesday, users will be able to stay connected with friends, family and colleagues by viewing their social-network activities within Outlook while perusing e-mail, noted Paco Contreras Herrera, group product manager for Microsoft Office.

“We have partnerships with Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace and Windows Live Messenger, and we expect that there will be more partnerships with other social providers coming down the pike,” Herrera said during an in-house video interview. “Working closely with key partners, including Facebook, our goal is to help you stay in touch with the people you care about and simplify your daily routine,” he added in a blog.

Boosting Convenience

LinkedIn and MySpace became available in Outlook Social Connector last winter. The addition of the Facebook and Messenger networks Tuesday reflects Microsoft’s commitment to evolve Outlook so it supports the way many people get things done today, Herrera wrote.

“According to the Nielsen ratings, 67 percent of the global online population now goes online to visit social networks and blogs to stay connected, make decisions, and get things done,” Herrera wrote. “The Outlook Social Connector doesn’t add another social network into the mix; rather, it offers busy people the convenience of accessing them in Outlook.”

To get started, Outlook users are invited to go to the Microsoft Download Center to access the available Outlook Social Connector, Facebook and Messenger downloads for the version of Office they currently use. Outlook 2010 users will automatically receive updates to the connector through the Microsoft Update service, Herrera observed.

Outlook Social Connector displays a quick view of relatedcontent Relevant Products/Services whenever the user clicks on an e-mail from a contact. The People Pane within Outlook displays pictures, activities and other information Relevant Products/Services about individual e-mail contacts imported from participating social-network sites.

“Now you’ll be able to view status updates and photos right next to an e-mail” as well as “grow your social and professional network directly within Outlook by simply adding ‘Friends’ to Facebook and Windows Live directly from the Outlook People Pane,” Herrera wrote.

A Useful Tool

For those using social-networking sites while in Outlook, the new software can be a useful tool for managing all those sites, noted Al Hilwa, program director of applications development software at IDC.

“However, since most Outlook use is inside the enterprise Relevant Products/Services, I have to wonder how popular something like this is going to be,” Hilwa said. “For those whose business requires social interaction — marketing or public relations, or community/audience management Relevant Products/Services — then integration with Outlook can be a productivity saver.”

From the consumer perspective, Hilwa thinks there is room for products that coordinate and manage profiles across multiple social-networking sites and platforms. “This is an opportunity for developers today to address,” Hilwa said. “Outlook can be that tool if Microsoft can market it more aggressively to consumers.”

Microsoft hasn’t yet added Twitter to the mix of social networks currently available via Outlook Social Connector. However, the Codeplex developer community is apparently working on a Twitter third-party app that will bring the popular micro-blogging service directly into the Outlook Social Connector for Office 2010.

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