Checking one's email and signing into a social network are similar acts, allowing a person to catch up with friends and colleagues. Microsoft's latest move seems both smart and natural, then, as the company's given Outlook users the option to integrate their Facebook and Windows Live experiences.
This opportunity is possible due to the Outlook Social Connector, which had already established ties between Outlook, LinkedIn, and MySpace. Microsoft's looking very well-connected in the social media space as a result.
Indeed, the latest Social Connector upgrade will allow Outlook users to interact with Facebook in all sorts of ways, from seeing pictures and status updates in real time to adding friends. And it even brings Outlook 2003 and 2007 - as opposed to just Outlook 2010 - into the game. So lots of data should be flying around.
Microsoft's paid close attention to issues of privacy, though, taking steps to ensure that no one's established preferences are disregarded. Don't look for any investigations or protests to stem from this move.
An official document explained, "The information from a social network that is available in Outlook is shown based upon the person's privacy settings for the social network. If the person has made any information available to you or publicly to everyone on the social network, then that information may also be seen in Outlook."
Otherwise, Microsoft said, "[O]ur goal is to help you stay in touch with the people you care about, and simplify your daily routine. . . . If you haven't tried it yet, we encourage you to give the Outlook Social Connector a spin and share with us your thoughts and ideas."