Microsoft is taking another step toward turning Outlook, its desktop email program, into a hub for information from popular social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace.
On Wednesday, Microsoft is releasing a “beta” test version of the Outlook Social Connector. The add-on software, which was first discussed last November, adds a new pane to the main email reading screen on Outlook. When a user clicks to read an email message, the new pane fills up with the sender’s most recent social-networking activities. Those could include the addition of a professional contact on LinkedIn or a “what I’m doing now” status update from Facebook.
Microsoft has a mixed record when it comes to web trends. The company’s free Hotmail and Windows Live Messenger programs are widely used, but its Windows Live blog/social network didn’t pick up much steam in the face of competition from Facebook. In this case, a small startup called Xobni has already built an Outlook add-on that combines inbox search with content from Facebook, LinkedIn and others.