Microsoft Dips a Toe in Enterprise Microblogging
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Monday, 22 March 2010

By Cara Garretson

Microsoft's Office division is working on a research project called OfficeTalk, which is designed to bring the benefits of microblogging to enterprises.

The OfficeTalk concept lets employees post thoughts, activities, and other information to a shared place where anyone else in the organization can read and respond. The major difference between OfficeTalk and consumer-focused microblogging services is that the OfficeTalk server is hosted within the confines of a company, not on a public Web site.

OfficeTalk is one of Microsoft's "concept tests," which are prototypes the company says are like concept cars and have with no current plans for inclusion in a product. However, via its Web site, customers can experiment with these new technologies and offer feedback to help improve them, the company says.

Microsoft has tested OfficeTalk internally, with over 10,000 users and hundreds of messages posted daily. Through internal tests the company says it has confirmed what it believed: microblogging isn't just for social content and can easily be leveraged for business communication and collaboration. And Microsoft says that when using the tool internally it spread across informal networks and helped users achieve new levels of collaboration.

According to the company, OfficeTalk has been one of the most popular internal concepts that employees have tried to date. The platform is one of many social software experiments that Microsoft has tested internally.

Next the company plans to deploy OfficeTalk, as well as a few other social networking experiments, at a limited number of customer sites to see how different organizations use and adapt to them. The company says that by doing so it hopes to not only improve OfficeTalk, but to also try and identify trends for future experiments.

However, Microsoft stresses that OfficeTalk is still just a concept, not a full-featured product, adding that because it is in an early stage of development it looks a lot like other microblogging services, presumably Twitter.

"That's part of our mission at Office Labs, to try new ideas on a small scale to learn about how people embrace them, then extend the concepts based on the data and findings we collect. That's partly why OfficeTalk today is pretty bare bones - the interesting stuff comes as we learn," reads a Microsoft blog post.

Microsoft is hardly the first company to come up with the idea of microblogging for corporate use; products such as Vialect's Noodle, SocialText's enterprise social software, and Yammer's enterprise platform all offer microblogging in a controlled, corporate environment.




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