Microsoft to Unleash the Social Networking Power of Outlook?

Just read this interesting snippet of information regarding Microsoft’s current R&D efforts in social networking

One project, known as Salsa, aims to use one’s corporate data to piece together their social network, or at least their network of co-workers. In its current form, the software is a plug-in to Outlook that shows social-networking information such as a photo and profile next to an incoming e-mail message. The program also pieces together a list of “friends” based on e-mail frequency and other data.

The Associated Press also reported on this news and added that Salsa”(..) integrates public social networking data such as entries, activity updates, and other information into the email windows of Microsoft Corp.’s Outlook email application. The tool allows people writing and responding to email to know more about the up-to-the-minute status of people they are corresponding with.”

What it means: finally, Microsoft is starting to explore the social networking power of Outlook, possibly the place where most people live their online social lives. I remember, at Mix06, Tim O’Reilly asking Bill Gates when they were going to leverage that installed base (“Outlook for many people is a reflection of their real social network”). I wonder if anyone can work on something like that with the Outlook API? There are reams of data ready to be mined in outlook e-mails (travel information, e-com transactions, events, merchant recommendations, etc.) but you need to show consumers you’re bringing lots of value, if you want them to add your plug-in.

Bill Gates: Print Yellow Pages Will be Dead in Five Years

Went to bed yesterday reading this article from the Seattle Times. The paper reports on a speech Bill Gates gave to some of Microsoft’s top advertising customers. Other than the usual story of newspapers demise, there was an interesting tidbit about print directories.

The traditional Yellow Pages are doomed as voice-activated Internet searches combined with on-screen interfaces on smart mobile devices get better and proliferate, Gates said. The company’s recent acquisition of voice-technology provider TellMe is accelerating the trend. “When you say something like ‘plumber’ the presentation you get will be far better than what you get in the Yellow Pages,” Gates said. “After all, we know your location and so we can cluster [results] around that. … Yellow Page usage amongst people in their, say below 50, will drop to near zero over the next five years.”

What it means: knowing how strong the print directory ecosystem is, I would be very surprised if it became completely irrelevant in the next five years. I’m also surprised Gates would come out so strongly and say their TellMe acquisition means they’re competing directly against directory publishers, especially at a time when people are starting to root for Microsoft to counter FOG. In any case, if you are in the directory space, you have to make sure you’re not solely dependent on one medium. Like the Kelsey Group used to say (and I’m paraphrasing), “don’t sell in the medium, sell in the database”. That means making sure your content can be accessed via different entry doors like print, online, voice, mobile, instant messenging Nintendo Wii, search engines, etc. As entry doors multiply, make sure you hedge your bets by being present in these various access points.