As part of the revamp of its Windows Live service, which includes a new version of Hotmail, Microsoft is also rolling out a new unified contacts manager; an address book stored centrally on Microsoft’s servers that can connect with social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn. The new address book is available across many Windows Live products, like Hotmail and Messenger, as well as other Microsoft products like the upcoming Windows Phone, Outlook via the Hotmail Connector and Windows Live Mail. It will also be available on any phone that supports the Exchange Active Sync protocol such as the iPhone, Windows Mobile, and some Android and Nokia devices.
You can see the new contacts manager at http://contacts.live.com (although some people won’t be able to get at it until the Hotmail rollout is complete). By linking your social networking accounts to Windows Live, you’ll not only be able to access all of your contacts in one place, you’ll also be able to, for example, send messages to Facebook friends from within Windows Live (and you’ll soon be able to IM Facebook friends from Messenger, too).
The service is able to aggregate contact data, so if you have the same contact on Facebook and Messenger, you won’t get a two entries for the same person. It also automatically syncs with all of your services so that your primary address book should always be up-to-date — a very useful feature, and one that my preferred universal contacts manager, Mozilla Contacts, is still missing.
Note: The Hotmail rollout seems to be proceeding extremely slowly, so it’s quite possible you won’t be able to see this new contacts manager yet.
If you’ve received this update, let us know what you think of it in the comments.
Related GigaOM Pro content (sub. req.): Email: The Reports of My Death are Greatly Exaggerated