The product adds a twist to the familiar stream of information from people you follow with notifications from government sources like the national weather service and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and displays those news items on a map of your area. You can also add Facebook status updates, including location information for those who permit that info to be shared; Twitter and traditional phone integration will come later.
Microsoft says that "Vine is appropriate for any small group of people who want to stay in touch, informed and involved -- families, neighbors, sports teams, school committees, volunteer groups or faith-based groups."
The communications chaos caused by Hurricane Katrina was the genesis of this idea, which is why the public service notifications are a big part of the product outline, but as Stan Schroeder at Mashable notes, "for a social network to thrive, it needs a lot of users. And I'm not sure that Microsoft will be able to get them."
The basic offering will be free but, Microsoft being Microsoft, it plans to charge for premium services. Not a likely scenario -- even AOL didn't try that with its professional version of AIM. But what can you expect from the ultimate in me-too companies?
Oracle, on the other hand, might be the unlikeliest company to launch a product of this nature, but Oracle developer Noel Portugal has developed a Twitter-like feature for internal use that has been such a hit internally, Portugal plans to roll this out as part of APEX, the Oracle development environment, in the near future.
What I envision as I release OraTweet is seeing companies, universities, and organizations running their own OraTweet instance, allowing them to keep their information private yet strengthening their own internal communities.
Portugal says the tool "flattens enterprise hierarchies and opens communication between all levels," but I'm not sure this is much different from IM -- and there are plenty of enterprise IM applications available to companies that don't want business conversations going across the public interwebs.
According to Portugal, OraTweet will be free, but he didn't respond to my questions about its future.
More likely Twitter-like implementations are also coming down the pike, however, like IMShopping, that remain purely in the consumer space and satisfy our apparently insatiable need for instant gratification.
I certainly hope that Twitter finds a workable business model because, frankly, I'm tired of signing up for new social networks, and this one works just fine for me.
And maybe that's just the assurance that enterprise vendors will offer corporate clients. "We know it's not as cool as Twitter, but we can promise it will be around in ten years" isn't a very exciting pitch, but it's probably appealing to IT administrators who already have enough work to do without having to install and support Twitter and then Twatter and then whatever new Web 2.0 consumer-crossover application next comes down the pike.