Outlook’s Facebook Integration Is Great; Could Do Without the Farmville Updates, Though
In four years, social networking services will replace email for about 20 percent of business users, says Gartner. If that’s true, then Microsoft’s integration of Facebook into its Outlook email client today will prove particularly prescient.
The software giant today delivered an update to Outlook’s Social Connector that adds Facebook integration to the in-box, enhancing it with pictures, status updates and wall posts from Facebook friends. Delivered in real time, this information will add an even broader social context to email communication in Outlook, which can already be configured to synchronize with MySpace and LinkedIn.
That might seem a novelty, but it could come in handy, particularly in a business environment. It adds a new degree of familiarity to email exchanges and certainly there’s some value in that. Knowing that your boss was up all night with a sick child is good intelligence when you’re timing your request for a raise. So is knowing that a potential client saw the same movie you did over the weekend or shares a common interest.
There are privacy issues associated with this, of course. But Microsoft (MSFT), which obviously paid close attention to the recent Google Buzz debacle, has addressed them. The user controls his or her social connections in Outlook; they’re not created automatically. “You might decide to have a strong division between personal networks and professional ones, or between social networking and email,” Microsoft explains. “The Outlook Social Connector respects what you decide to share through social networks. Other people using the Outlook Social Connector can only see information about you based on what you have made public to them on social networks and the email address in your profile on the social network.”