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Starting today, Microsoft Outlook users can view their social networks as they look through their email. The newly-launched Outlook Social Connector integrates Facebook and Windows Live Messenger into Outlook, bringing the streams of Facebook users into their inboxes.
Outlook 2003 and 2007 users can download the latest version of the Outlook Social Connector from the Microsoft Download Center. Outlook 2010 users can get it as an update.
Albie Bester, the head of Microsoft South Africa’s Office business, says the Outlook Social Connector syncs social networking feeds with your Outlook contacts, giving you an immediate update on what they are doing and thinking.
Not only does it pull Facebook profile photos so that you can associate a name to a face, but it pulls the news feeds of your contacts into your inbox. When you’re looking at someone’s email, you’ll also get a glance at their status updates, picture uploads and wall posts, among other activities.
“When you combine this with other social networks like LinkedIn, MySpace, Windows Live Messenger, and Outlook data, you get a very detailed history of your interaction with your contacts, as well as an at-a-glance look at their activities and interests. Knowing that a potential client just returned from a trip to Hawaii can be all that you need to have the upper hand against your competition,” says Bester.
In a related blog, Microsoft Group Product Manager Paco Contreras says there’s another new feature to the Facebook integration: real-time updates. Thanks to a new update to the social connector platform, also being released today, updates from your contacts will automatically be pushed to users’ inboxes. There’s no need to refresh anything: new Facebook status updates will pop up in realtime within Outlook.
Except for friend requests, Outlook can only pull data from Facebook at the moment. For now, you cannot “like” posts or update your status via Outlook – but Microsoft says the next step is to provide a richer social experience by integrating the ability to push data to other social networks, improving the look and feel of Outlook Social Connector, and adding other social networks from other regions.