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Microsoft Outlook Enhances Facebook Integration

Social network support added to make the e-mail client more of a communication hub on the desktop.

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Microsoft Outlook's Social Connector plug-in has been updated to allow users to capture Facebook status updates, photos, and wall posts within the e-mail client.

The Facebook connection works for Outlook 2010, 2007, and 2003. Connector also links Facebook profiles with contacts within Outlook.

Microsoft linked Social Connector to LinkedIn and MySpace earlier this year. In June, Microsoft released the TwInbox plug-in that made it possible to follow Twitter posts in Outlook.

Social network updates appear in Outlook's Inbox. Microsoft on Wednesday also released version 1.1 of Social Connector that gives users the ability to receive real-time updates in the "People Pane" within Outlook.

Microsoft is adding social-network support in Outlook to make the e-mail client more of a communication hub on the desktop. Fully 67% of Internet users worldwide visit social networks and blogs, according to Nielsen.

Microsoft is not the first to extend an e-mail client to social networks. Yahoo added the ability to draw Facebook updates into Mail earlier this year.

Social Connector makes Facebook contact information available in Outlook, but doesn't allow users to post the same information to the social network. In addition, the software mirrors Facebook users' privacy settings. Microsoft has said that its goal is to connect existing social networks, rather than to build a new one, such as what Google is doing with Buzz.

With the use of online social networks growing, companies have seen an increasing number of employees accessing the sites in the workplace. A recent Cisco-sponsored study of 512 IT decision-makers in the United States, Japan, Germany, China, and India found that 56% determined that employees used unsupported applications. Of those, 68% were accessing social networking sites.

Social networks are useful in providing businesses with publicly available information about customers, partners, and competitors. However, they also have been identified as one of the leading IT risks to organizations.

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