Microsoft delivers service for integrating social Web data into business apps

Project "Vancouver," Microsoft's new cloud-based social-analytics service, is available to testers interested in the idea of integrating social Web data into business applications.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

I blogged recently that Microsoft was poised to deliver its "Social Analytics" Azure service (codenamed "Vancouver"). And last week, the Softies did just that, making a first public test version of its latest SQL Azure Labs project available.

Social Analytics is targeted at both developers and end users interested in enabling businesses to integrate the social Web into their business applications.

From a description on the SQL Azure Labs web site:

"Our goal is to enable businesses to build connections and communities among customers, influencers, and their employees; to support customer needs for high value information guided by peers and experts/influencers; to engage in conversations and respond to buzz around hot topics; and to make the voice of community actionable across the product lifecycle."

The test version that is available includes two sample social datasets created by the team: One about Windows 8 and one about Bill Gates. Users can view the raw social data and context for it using the SQL Analytics "engagement client," which looks like a typical Twitter client that handles social inputs from Twitter, Facebook, blogs and forums. The client correlates related content, allowing users to respond to them in context, explains a video clip on the site explaining Social Analytics.

Here's a screen capture of the client:

(click on image above to enlarge)

There also are application programming interfaces (APIs) allowing developers to include social content from specific areas into their applications. The APIs are built on the Open Data Protocol and delivered through the DataMarket on the Windows Azure Marketplace, according to the site.

Social Analytics also includes a built-in "sentiment engine" developed by Microsoft Research. I don't know exactly what this engine is. Maybe it has to do with the MSR Excel Datascope project, which provides cloud-based data analytics for social content, among other types? (Just a guess on my part.)

The team is looking for feedback on the preview release. There's no official word as to when Microsoft plans to release a final version of Social Analytics or how it will be priced.

Update: The New York Times just published a piece on "Twitterology" and the challenges of sentiment analytics that's worth a read for anyone interested in this topic.

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