With more people turning to social networks to communicate, Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) is adding a new feature to the next version of Outlook so that users can track the activities of contacts on social networks from within their e-mail inboxes. The feature — called Outlook Social Connector — aggregates social networking updates, a history of the back and forth between the sender and recipient, and a list of upcoming meetings with that person — all of which appear in a pane below an e-mail (See screenshot above).
Microsoft’s first partner is LinkedIn, which says it will bring its feeds to Outlook starting in early 2010. But Microsoft says additional social networks are coming, including its own Windows Live. It’s hard to imagine that Facebook isn’t also up next, considering Microsoft owns a stake in the company.
The new feature comes as several startups have already integrated social networking updates with Outlook by introducing add-ons to the software. For instance, Xobni has an Outlook plugin that pulls updates about a user’s contacts from Facebook, LinkedIn and other sites into their e-mail.