Disclaimer: This post, originally written in November 2009, has been updated to note that Google Buzz has actually been released as of February 2010 where Google Wave remained in beta and Outlook 2010 is still in the future.
With the breaking news announcement by LinkedIn and Microsoft of the new Outlook Social Connector (OSC) functionality for Office 2010, few bloggers are noting (yet) that this *is* Microsoft’s possible answer to Google Buzz.
Both OSC and Google Buzz are supposed to revolutionize the “Inbox” (after xobni and SenderOK pioneered the way) by providing photos, profile data and the message/attachment history of people who send you communications. Let’s take a look under the hood of what both the giants are proposing:
First of all, GoogleWave was a non-starter the way it was beta released. The GoogleWave Inbox does not receive Gmail Email destined for the Gmail Inbox. I can’t even send a normal Email to my Name@GoogleWave.com address. Why not? People only want to go to a few places per day to communicate with others. They now go to their Email Inbox and maybe their Twitter application and Facebook page on the web. Does Google expect them to go to another URL (GoogleWave.com) to do additional communicating with others? Waves are like forums. GoogleWave can kill the forum software industry and the need for people to buy domains to park their forums…but will GoogleWave become the first place people go when they turn on their machines? Not until waves share the Inbox with normal Email.
That is where Google Buzz comes in (this post said before today’s update “We’ll have to assume that GoogleWave and Gmail will be merged by the time Outlook 2010 becomes available in “early 2010”. The GoogleWave Inbox will have to accept normal Email. Waves themselves are great. But unless a merge happens, GoogleWave will just be a web portal to find and join fancy forums on subjects we search for).
Microsoft’s OSC will present Email with sender profiles with “rich history” in the Email header pane (like SenderOK now does – xobni does this via an extra “frame sidebar”). Microsoft will immediately get many of the world’s businesspeople as users (many of the 500 Million current Outlook users will upgrade to Office 2010). Users will apparently see Email sender profiles via APIs from social networks similar to what xobni and SenderOK now do for Outlook 2003/7 (currently SenderOK draws from its own social network “business card exchange”). OSC will not have the great xobni multiple PST search functionality nor will it have the excellent SenderOK Email priority sorting functionality. But xobni and SenderOK would both like to get the lion’s share of 500 million users overnight the way Microsoft will.
Who will win the “Social Email Fight” between Google and Microsoft? Well…Google business customers are already reading their Gmail hosted mail inside Outlook 2003 and 2007 (a major win for both Google and Microsoft). If Google wants to really win this, they will need to build an Email client that works offline (Gmail does this but Google has not made it obvious that they can do this).
Otherwise Microsoft *will* win the battle to keep Outlook as the first program businesspeople open on their computers in the morning.
What about Mozilla, AOL and Yahoo? If they don’t move fast, the upcoming OSC vs Google Buzz fight will trample them down (we deleted here a criticism of GoogleWave not being integrated with Gmail because Google Buzz has basically done that).
The competitors of Google and Microsoft may want to give us a call. SenderOK, unlike xobni, already has the technology that works with webmail and our plug-in now provides Yahoo, Gmail, Live and Outlook with photo business cards in the Email header pane.
What about international webmail portals like Web.de in Germany or Mail.ru in Russia? They’ll need to get this type of technology quickly as well. SenderOK is the only company that can provide them with this now.
Regarding social network executives, the Microsoft OSC announcement is a big boost for LinkedIn (who will be providing Microsoft’s first API feed, recognizing the identity of email senders by their email address if that is a registered LinkedIn address for that sender).
The future of social networking really *is* inside the Email client, even if the Email client is in a web browser. If you get a message from someone (and Email and SMS text messages are the dominant messaging form), then the photo and profile data that message associates itself with will become the main place for people to go to update their data. Fewer and fewer people will be heading for specific URLs on the web to communicate with contacts on some socnet site – and this includes Facebook and Twitter.
Twitter applications MUST merge with Email clients. The current separate situation is only temporary.
Final Note: Gmail will soon have anti-phishing icons, similar to what SenderOK does. Microsoft has not announced that they will have this helpful and potentially profitable functionality (corporations would pay to have their logos serve as anti-phishing icons = symbols of authenticated Email).
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