Wednesday, February 17, 2010
  • Gavin O'Malley, February 17, 2010, 12:55 PM
  • Despite the many pitfalls presented by social media (made clear by Google's highly criticized Buzz launch), Microsoft is ramping up related efforts with the release of Outlook Social Connector -- a socially souped-up version of its email client, featuring a user's recent social-networking activities.

    "Windows Phone 7 is not the only Microsoft product designed to act as a social networking hub, as Microsoft is also positioning Outlook 2010 as the desktop connection bridging together, and centralizing data from websites such as LinkedIn, Facebook and MySpace," Softpedia reports.

    "The announcement suggests that Microsoft is in the race to aggregate its users' social-networking content into a single 'hub,' a trend being embraced by companies ranging from Google to Xobni," writes eWeek. "Previously, LinkedIn had also partnered with IBM, Research In Motion and Twitter to port its users' profiles onto those companies' respective networks and devices."

    Yet, "Google added Buzz to Gmail with mixed results," notes AppScout. "If there's a lesson to be learned here, it seems to be that, while social networks remain popular, there are still certain properties that users would like to remain untouched by the phenomenon ... If the response to Google is any indication, email is one such space."

    Arguably a worse fate than user backlash, however, Microsoft's previous "social" efforts have gone largely ignored. "Microsoft has a mixed record when it comes to Web trends," notes The Associated Press. "The company's free Hotmail and Windows Live Messenger programs are widely used, but its Windows Live blog/social network didn't pick up much steam in the face of competition from Facebook."

    Whether the new Outlook succeeds or not, some analysts see the broader trend quite clearly: Email is here to stay. "Not only do moves like this reinforce how important social media has become to business, but they also reinforce the staying power of email," explains WebProNews. "There has been a great deal of discussion in the past about how social media could kill email, but to the contrary, we're seeing more and more moves by social networks to become more integrated with the email channel ... For email marketers, this is great news." Read the whole story...
  • Google is giving the Wikimedia Foundation a $2 million donation, which represents of full third of what the not-for-profit received in contributions last year. "Wikipedia is one of the greatest triumphs of the Internet," according to Google co-founder Sergey Brin.

    "However," notes The Register (UK), "while the gift will secure Wikipedia's financing for the time being, the site still faces the problem of a decline in the number of footsoldiers willing to edit the site for free." This marks Google's first donation to the foundation, which is expected to support core operational costs, including investments in technical infrastructure. Read the whole story...
  • Pushing aside other premium content providers, HBO plans to make its movies and original programming available online through a new subscription service. HBO Go is part of the cable industry's TV Everywhere strategy to make TV content available online to paying subscribers, according to TechCrunch. It contains 600 hours of movies and TV shows, which can be streamed live and in HD. The service is available initially to Verizon FIOS subscribers. First Impressions? "If I wasn't already paying for HBO I certainly wouldn't pay for access to this site," concludes TechCrunch's Erick Schonfeld.

    "The choice of shows and movies is just not that great ... The on-demand option is great, but essentially HBO Go is competing with much broader array of choices on the TV which can also be made on-demand through a DVR." Read the whole story...
  • Engaged in an enviable hiring frenzy, Twitter just crossed what VentureBeat calls the "symbolic" 140-employee mark -- the same number of characters that the microblogging network allows its users to tweet a one time. But, it's not stopping there.

    On Twitter's job page, there are presently at least 27 openings, mostly for tech experts. As VentureBeat observes, the hiring binge comes on the heals of a funding round -- which valued the company at $1 billion. One of the newest Twitter employees is Robin Sloan, previously head of strategy for Current TV. Venture also notes that Twitter is overcoming it highly-publicized usership slump. It attracted 73.5 million unique individuals in January -- up 8% from the previous month, according to comScore. Read the whole story...
  • Albeit in an address to the "Mobile World Congress," Google CEO Eric Schmidt just called for the broader industry to make mobile priority No. 1. Within three years, sales of smartphones will surpass sales of PCs, according to research cited by Schmidt. "The confluence of these three factors (computing, connectivity and the cloud) means your phone is your alter ego, an extension of everything we do," he told conference attendees.

    "Here, right now, we understand the new rule is 'mobile first' in everything ... Perhaps the phrase should be 'mobile first' simply because it's time to be proud of what we have built together." Google, it should also be noted, is presently endevoring to establish Android as a preferred mobile operating system among consumers and developers. Read the whole story...
  • Sounds like the crew of one Southwest Airlines flight just asked the wrong passenger to leave the plane (before takeoff) because of his, er, size. The passenger? Outspoken film director and Twitter celebrity Kevin Smith. "Dear @SouthwestAir - I know I'm fat, but was Captain Leysath really justified in throwing me off a flight for which I was already seated?" is the message Smith's more than 1.5 million Twitter followers received this past weekend.

    Southwest -- no Web 2.0 novice with more than a million Twitter followers itself -- followed up with a blog entry apologizing to Smith, and admitting that the situation was poorly handled. The damage, however, was already done. "What the whole thing amounted to was about the worst scenario imaginable," says CNet's The Social blog. "An airline was awkwardly executing a controversial policy with a passenger, and that passenger happened to be one of Twitter's most popular and opinionated users." Read the whole story...