Welcome to the party, Microsoft Outlook. Luckily this fashionably late friend brought some delicious goodies to the party. The social web is important. We all get that. Facebook being the center of that universe as the social internet home for 500 million people.
Microsoft Outlook with it’s latest release recognizes the importance of that. Microsoft has released an Outlook feature that will sync your current contacts with their Facebook profiles to keep information current. Lehman’s terms: extending your social graph into your email. There have been smaller features released in the past, however the direct support from Microsoft validates the “here to stay” importance of Facebook.
The new feature is the largest play to date for Microsoft’s Social Connector initiative. It integrates with Microsoft Outlook 2003/2007 and Windows Live. Along with that, they are launching a new platform for the Social Connector allowing you real time updates from your friends (largely focused around Facebook) released with the latest Office 2010. Only those Facebook contacts with Outlook email addresses are synced, to avoid any privacy concerns such as those Google faced with its Buzz integration. Your Facebook contacts’ profile pictures are also synced. From Microsoft,
“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. Today’s news demonstrates our commitment to evolving Office to support the way you get things done. 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.”
Already having integration with a similar tool for LinkedIn, it is clear that Microsoft wants to strengthen your usage of their product by deepening your social relationships. This validation might go unnoticed in the headlines, but it is a huge nod to social networks such as LinkedIn and Facebook to have Microsoft prove their importance by integrating. Where is Twitter? As Facebook continues to make roads down more business interactions, this validation can be lucrative to their future verticals.
Let’s call a spade a spade. This is a trend we are going to see a lot of in the coming year as the mobile play ramps up. Facebook has your social profile, it is what you are familiar with. Other companies and their products are going to try and leverage that familiarity. With Microsoft Outlook, it’s leveraging that familiarity into your address book. Facebook is affecting not only who you know, but where and how often you connect with them across multiple platforms. Furthering their place atop the mountain for the centralized source of management and exchanging of information.
Today’s news seems like more of a “finally” release, than an “oh yeah!” release. Business and industry alike are having to take notice of the social web, social graph and social networks. Leverage the familiar into your product, or someone else will. Social networks are molded and changed by the users behaviors. Building a product that takes advantage of those behaviors and expectations is the natural progression in business. I’d love to see the concept of Apple iPhone 4 face-time being implemented into conversations between Outlook and Facebook. Notice I said loosely said “concept”. Less static syncing required. The big play left on the table: social search and auto management tools around your social graph.
We are opening on the web to be a completely social web. Privacy you’re on the clock.