Thursday, October 21, 2010

Microsoft Social Strategy Update

Social network market is just too big and rapidly evolving for one guy to cover. Back in September I wrote about Microsoft's social network play, and managed to leave out Outlook Social Connect (OSC) and Spindex from Microsoft Fuse Labs. Today I wanted to talk a bit about what OSC and Spindex, and other developments around Microsoft's social strategy.

OSC: Social Network Widget for Outlook

OSC is a plugin that enables Outlook to aggregate LinkedIn, Facebook, Myspace, and Windows Live Messenger identities and display them right on the Outlook. For example, if you are looking at the email from your co-worker Jim, OSC will fetch Jim's social network identity and display Jim's activities on the social networks. OSC was launched back in November 2009, and added Facebook and Windows Live Messenger in July 2010.

Once you test drive OSC, you'll soon realize it is a simplified Xobni Outlook plugin at the moment. Is Microsoft out to compete with Xobni?

Spindex from Microsoft Fuse Labs

Spindex is a experimental social network aggregator by Microsoft Fuse Labs. It had closed beta launch back in May 2010, and has been improving its stability. It is still closed to public (invitation only as of yet), but worth noting for Microsoft's view on social media.

I would describe Spindex as new-Twitter-like UI social aggregator with integrated trending and searching within your network. (It's interesting to note that new Twitter UI actually came out after Spindex announcement, and couldn't help but notice the similar layout to new Twitter UI.) Idea is that you can see trending topics within your network, and search within your network.

Yes, that is social search, and that's what Bing announced with Facebook last week.

Developing Microsoft Social Strategy

Microsoft has their fingers on multiple pots. Here are recent social network developments from Microsoft since I wrote my earlier article.

1. Microsoft Bing integrating Facebook-enabled social search

Social search is natural extension for Microsoft Bing. While Google is getting their act together, Microsoft is taking advantage of partnership with Facebook to provide social search experience in Bing search engine.

2. Microsoft announcement of Windows Phone 7

Microsoft also understands that mobile is something they cannot ignore. It's no secret that mobile device's explosive growth. People are even talking about mobile web access surpassing desktop web access by 2014. With iPad's explosive growth and rising adoption by enterprises, Microsoft realizes without playing in mobile, they will lose more than half of OS market.

As mobile becomes increasingly important digital device in enterprises, Microsoft gotta be thinking about licensed corporate users, and how they can enable easy access to business data.

Pardon The French.
Note Easy Access To Office and Sharepoint Starting From 48 Seconds In.

3. Microsoft Sharepoint integration with emerging enterprise social network Yammer

Microsoft and Yammer just announced that Yammer will be integrated with Sharepoint. Yammer has been gathering steam amongst small and medium businesses (SMB) through its ingenious bootstrapping method: Freemium with targeted group invitation. While giving out freemium services in the hope of someone upgrading to premium service has not panned out for all SaaS service providers, Yammer is allowing any business user to sign on with valid business email, and start using Yammer to connect with co-workers. As amount of data managed by Yammer increases, more value Yammer can provide to the company, and they are using this fact to entice SMBs to sign up with Yammer to make the company site official with premium license.

The integration between Sharepoint and Yammer will benefit both networks as they can propose even more value when social data is easier to access. I would expect Microsoft to announce integration plans with other business social network sites.

So what does all these mean for Microsoft's play in social network market? It means Microsoft understand importance of rising social need. Now the question is whether Microsoft can execute and deliver.

Certainly Microsoft has all the pieces available. It's matter of putting them together.

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