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Microsoft Adds Social Links to Outlook

Microsoft on Wednesday released a beta of Outlook Social Connector (OSC), which lets users view the activities of their LinkedIn contacts within their Outlook inbox. The company also said it plans to offer integration between OSC and the Facebook and MySpace networks.

The software will allow Outlook 2010 users to view the activities of individuals in all of those networks as well as communicate with them, Microsoft said. One network that was noticeably not on the list is the widely used Twitter.

However, the latest update from Microsoft, though incremental, underscores the company's effort to evolve the forthcoming Office 2010 as it faces competition from lower-cost alternatives. Microsoft's OSC push also highlights its effort to position the inbox as the key aggregator or focal point of networks and communications.

Just last week, Google took its own stab at making the Gmail inbox and address book the center of Buzz, Google's new social network. After customers complained that Buzz automatically followed everyone in one's address book, Google stepped back.

It remains to be seen whether OSC will raise similar issues, but its core focus is to aggregate those who are already connected.

"When people change their info -- let's say they get promoted, they change jobs, they change their phone number -- all of that information actually syncs down into the Outlook contact store, so your local Outlook contact is always the most current one," said Dev Balasubramanian, Microsoft's Outlook product manger, in a Channel 9 video. It also lets users grow their LinkedIn networks directly from Outlook, he added.

The LinkedIn connector is available for download now. It requires the Office 2010 beta.

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.

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