This week, Microsoft updated its plans to add social networking services integration with Outlook, its premier email and personal information management client. The company had previously announced a so-called social connector for Outlook 2010, 2007, and 2003 (the former of which is still being beta tested) that will allow users to access contact data and status updates from various social networks into Outlook. Now, there's a schedule for adding support for some of the top social networks.

"Bringing social networking together with email and contacts ... will enable users to bring social components into Outlook, such as profile pictures, photos, and status updates," a Microsoft representative told me. "These partnerships, as well as an open API for anyone to build a connector for a social network, demonstrate the commitment to evolving Office 2010 to help people improve their productivity, stay in touch with the people they care about, and simplify their daily routine."

Up first is LinkedIn, which as of this week offers an Outlook social connector add-on called LinkedIn for Outlook. With the social connector and this add-on installed, Outlook users will be able to see their LinkedIn activity and profile photo from within emails, and send email and invitations to LinkedIn contacts. Information from your LinkedIn contacts will also populate the appropriate data fields in Outlook contacts.

Later in the first half of 2010, two other Microsoft partners, Facebook and MySpace, will deliver their own add-ons for the Outlook social connector. (And it's safe to say that many others will appear as well.) Microsoft intends to finalize Office 2010 in the coming weeks, and I've been told that general availability of the suite will occur on June 15, 2010.

The LinkedIn add-on for the Outlook social connector is currently available only for 32-bit versions of Outlook (which is all versions of Outlook 2003 and 2007). Presumably, a version for the 64-bit version of Outlook 2010 will be made available at some point as well.

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