Microsoft moves its Chatter-like OfficeTalk toward commercialization

Summary:OfficeTalk -- Microsoft's enterprise-focused microblogging technology -- may soon find a home among the company's product teams and become a shipping product and/or service.

OfficeTalk -- Microsoft's enterprise-focused microblogging technology -- may soon find a home among the company's product teams and become a shipping product and/or service.

OfficeTalk, one of the projects launched via Microsoft's Office Labs in 2010, is a social-networking tool for businesses, as the Softies have described it. From screen shots and reports, it looks and feels similar to Salesforce's Chatter or Yammer's Yammer.

Last March, the Office Labs team described OfficeTalk as a "research project" with no clear path to or promise of commercialization. By August, the team was running pilots of OfficeTalk inside Microsoft and with a few select customers.

This week, according to a blog post by Microsoft Storyteller Steve Clayton, OfficeTalk has advanced considerably. Clayton's post focuses on "The Garage," a place for Microsoft employees to hash out and incubate new ideas. The Garage is another project under Chris Pratley -- the Microsoft General Manager who also oversees Office Labs and the Envisioning Center.

Clayton quotes Office Labs Program Manager Quinn Hawkins as saying OfficeTalk has pased the Microsoft "funded incubation" stage, and now "is being considered by the product teams."

I asked Microsoft officials which teams were considering it and how/when it may become a commercial offering. Will OfficeTalk be an add-on to Dynamics CRM 2011 and/or SharePoint 2010 (or their successors)? A new standalone product? I was told the company had no more information to share at this time.

Salesforce, for its part, has made Chatter a core of its software-as-a-service offering, turning its CRM platform into a very Facebook/Twitter-like experience. Do you think Microsoft should do the same? Where and how should OfficeTalk be integrated into the Microsoft product/service line-up, in your view?

Topics: CXO, Collaboration, IT Employment, Microsoft, Software

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Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She also is the cohost of the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT network. Got a tip? Se... Full Bio

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