The company's popular messaging client now connects with LinkedIn, and soon with Facebook and MySpace.
Evidently undeterred by Google's rocky integration of Gmail and social networking, Microsoft on Wednesday strengthened Outlook's connections to social networks.
Building on its Outlook Social Connector (OSC), introduced last November as a way to make social networking contact information available in Outlook, Microsoft announced the public beta of LinkedIn for Outlook and partnerships with Facebook and MySpace.
Microsoft Outlook product manager Dev Balasubramanian in a video explains that the goal of these partnerships is to "bring social networking into the inbox."
Last week, Google brought social networking into the inbox and found itself twice forced to make changes to the service for failing to anticipate the privacy problems that arise when a medium used for confidential communication meets a service designed for sharing.
Balasubramanian in a blog post notes that Microsoft's OSC software is designed to respect social networking privacy settings and that Microsoft's goal is to connect existing social networks rather than build a new one (as Google is trying to do).
"What we think users will appreciate is that the Outlook Social Connector doesn't add another professional or social network into the mix," he said. "The Outlook Social Connector does offer busy people, who are already a part of one or several networks, convenience -- not confusion."
LinkedIn for Outlook, now available as a download, allows users of Office 2010 Beta to see colleagues' LinkedIn status updates and photos in e-mail messages, to allow LinkedIn contact information changes to update Outlook contact data, to add LinkedIn connections through Outlook, and to sync mobile phone contact information with Web data.
When Facebook and MySpace connectors are made available later this year, Outlook 2010 users will have access to similar functionality with those sets of contacts.