Times are changing: while corporate management all around the world worries about the distractibility and entitlement of the next generation of workers, Microsoft appears set to embrace the future warmly. The next version of Microsoft Word and the rest of the Office 15 suite will include some features very familiar to the kids these days.
"For Office 15 we're building new products to deliver integration of instant messaging/presence with social networks such as Facebook," the company wrote in a job posting put online today. Stephen Chapman first reported on the news at ZDNet and said he found it bewildering. Not everyone feels that way, though; to some observers it makes perfect sense.
"Facebook and Microsoft have an alliance stemming from early investments in their relationship to keep their common enemy Google at bay," analyst Jeremiah Owyang of Altimeter Group said to us about the news. "Expect this partnership to continue, not just because of a software alliance, but also because the lines between personal and work life [are] blurring and as Facebook becomes the dominant identification system on the web. "
What do you think, readers? Do you think that integrating the Facebook and work social graphs will be a net positive for work productivity? It could be a great way to leverage our social connections while we work, a practice that could become increasingly important in a more social, always connected world. Instant messaging is one thing, but Presence Data is another: imagine knowing who that you know is available to answer a question at a given moment. That could be a very valuable asset in the workplace.
Or is this a desperate attempt by Microsoft to stay relevant in the future, at the expense of real work and most peoples' preference to separate work and personal lives? It's a fascinating question, I think.
Microsoft launched a browser-based version of Office called Docs.com, with extensive Facebook integration, nearly one year ago. When the new Facebook Groups feature was rolled out, Docs.com supported it as well. It's not clear that site has been widely adopted.