Social networking to Outlook: The next big time waster?

Summary:Outlook's new Social Connector brings together a professional inbox with a personal social network. To me, this sounds like a rather bad idea. Opinion

Microsoft is bringing social networks including Facebook and MySpace to the next version of Office through form of the Outlook Social Connector.

Through a bar at the bottom of the email message which I discovered exclusively only a few months ago, the People pane, information about users will be pulled from social networks about the sender, to socialise the once ordinary boring email message.

The Connector is only a one way, read-from technology, which doesn't allow information to be pushed back to the social networks. However some are suggesting that Outlook is a social network in its own right, with SharePoint being a key part in the next version of Office.

At the moment, only LinkedIn is supported as Facebook and MySpace (and presumably others once they realise it could be quite a killer feature) will be supported by the time Outlook 2010 is released later this year.

Yet already some users seem to be struggling with the 64-bit version, which leads me to suggest once again that users are not ready or able to go fully 64-bit.

Cue typical dark-room cheesy Microsoft promotion tactics (this video makes me want to vomit):

In my experience, even though Office 2010 will make it easier for students to access Outlook, users still aren't using Outlook as much as the corporate or business environment. Every university that I have come across has web mail, predominately through Outlook Web Access (courtesy of a back-end Exchange server) or through an outsourced email provider like Live@edu or Google Apps for Education.

But on the flip side of this, having access to all Facebook or MySpace content from an email message sent by, say, your boss for example, can undermine not only the seriousness of the work you are undertaking but lead to a massive potential waste of time and productivity. If your boss has just emailed you a right old rollocking, would you take them all that seriously if underneath is a bunch of photos they uploaded after last week's office party?

Even the corporate vice president for the Office group doesn't want this to be the next-generation office time waster. Whether he wants it to or not, it might well happen.

Leave Outlook alone. It should be there to send and receive email, occasionally organise meetings and let you be productive. This add-on will be the built-in equivalent of having Facebook open on another window in the background and it'll churn up your time like a fat person eats cake.

Topics: Enterprise Software, Collaboration, Microsoft, Networking, Social Enterprise, Software

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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