While Google Buzz’s aggressive social network integration into Gmail upset users enough to make Google quickly backtrack, the Outlook Social Connector add-on is Microsoft’s timid step towards integrating social network activity into Outlook.
Microsoft has announced that Facebook support is forthcoming in the Office 2010 version, but Social Connector can integrate your LinkedIn contacts in Outlook 2003 and 2007 right now.
To do so, download the Outlook Social Connector add-on from here and install it on your PC with Outlook 2003, 2007 or the 2010 beta. Then, download the LinkedIn support piece and restart Outlook.
From Outlook’s Tools menu, choose “Social Network Account Settings” to configure your LinkedIn account. Enter your LinkedIn credentials to sign in as shown:
Once your LinkedIn account is set up, your Outlook Contacts will contain a new LinkedIn group:
Click on a contact to see his or her Linked In details.
The bottom panel of the contact window contains your history of email communication, your contact’s LinkedIn status updates and actions, as well as meetings you’ve been at together and file attachments you’ve exchanged.
Facebook, MySpace, and Windows Live integration will be available for Social Connector 2010 when Office 2010 ships, in the first half of 2010. With those services enabled, the add-on will include photo uploads and other newsfeed items inside the contact card, as shown in this screenshot from the Office Blog:
Compared to Google Buzz, right now the Outlook Social Connector is positively anemic in the features department, especially with no mention of Twitter integration in its future. But for Outlook users with an active LinkedIn network, it offers an easy way to keep up with professional contacts without leaving your inbox (and a way for Microsoft to compete with Google Apps’ upcoming Buzz integration).