Microsoft and Facebook have deepened their partnership on everything from Docs.com to Bing. Does this give Microsoft more leverage against Google?
Microsoft executives have talked for months about their company's "all
in" cloud strategy, which will gradually shift its product focus from the
desktop to the Web. Social networking is an integral component of that
strategy-and some announcements this week suggest that Microsoft sees Facebook,
with its installed base of 500 million users, as a key partner in the effort.
Microsoft and Facebook announced a deeper partnership Oct. 13, centered on a
set of new social-search features accessible via Bing and Facebook's Web
results. One of the features, Liked Results, displays Websites and links "liked"
by a Facebook user's friends. The other, Facebook Profile Search, leverages a
user's Facebook connections to deliver more relevant results.
Thanks to a $240 million investment, Microsoft owns a 1.6 percent stake in
Facebook. That makes such collaborations inevitable-especially if they allow
Microsoft and Facebook to more aggressively combat their mutual enemy, Google.
"We think it's time for a real, robust, persistent social signal,"
Satya Nadella, senior vice president of Microsoft's Online Services Division, wrote
in an Oct. 13 posting on the Bing Community blog
. "Facebook has led a
transformation of the Internet already. It has reached and passed 500 million
members, and the amount of content created inside Facebook each day is
Nadella added: "This new signal will allow us to do a better and more
comprehensive job predicting what resources and content are most relevant to
you because, in addition to all the other signals we use, other people you
trust have found them interesting."
However, Microsoft's Facebook integration extends beyond Bing. On Oct. 14,
the company announced updates to its Docs.com online applications platform,
which allows Facebook users to create and share Word, Excel and PowerPoint
documents. New features include .PDF support, full-text search, user-generated
templates, and drag-and-drop Silverlight document uploading.
Microsoft chief software architect Ray Ozzie, in an Oct. 14 note on his personal
, described using the new features to upload documents from a folder
discovered while cleaning out his home office. "Inside a sealed packet I
found a wonderful artifact from decades ago-a folder of collaterals from the
Windows 1.0 launch event," he wrote. "I've scanned and posted this
artifact at docs.com, which as of today has introduced, among other features,
-browser-based PDF reading' support."
Docs.com is a product of FUSE Labs, a Microsoft division created by Ozzie in
Oct. 2009 to focus on "software and services that are centered on social
connectivity, real-time experiences and rich media," according to a
Microsoft release at the time.
More to the point, FUSE Labs would theoretically allow Microsoft to quickly
capitalize on social computing opportunities developed by Microsoft Research
and other divisions: "The lab will prioritize efforts where its
capabilities can be applied to areas where the company's extant missions,
structures, tempo or risk might otherwise cause us to miss a material threat or
Such a threat exists in Google Docs and similar cloud-based productivity
platforms. To counter that, Microsoft rolled out stripped-down,
browser-accessible versions of OneNote, Excel, Word and PowerPoint for Windows
Live subscribers. But collaborating with Facebook gives Microsoft access to a
massive brand and a built-in audience-fuel to the fire of its increasingly
intense cloud efforts.
"We're hard-wired so that information about people is the most
interesting information we track in the world," Facebook CEO
Mark Zuckerberg told the audience during the Oct. 13 presentation to introduce
the Bing social-networking apps.
But will those deeper links to Facebook, even across multiple Microsoft
platforms, allow Redmond to more
effectively battle Google? More to the point: Will Facebook's users-many of
them already wary about how their information spreads online-gravitate towards
using a social-networking-enhanced Docs.com and Bing in greater numbers? That
remains to be seen.