Microsoft has created a research group to look into how the company can extend its reach into social networking. The new research team will be called Future Social Experiences (FUSE), and will be headed by Microsoft General Manager Lili Cheng. The new group was announced in an e-mail sent to Microsoft employees by Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie, who will oversee the project, according to TechCrunch.
FUSE reportedly merges three existing research groups within Microsoft into a larger collaborative group. Ozzie's memo explaining the project is scarce on details, and only emphasizes broad concepts that will guide the new research lab. In Ozzie's world, social networking is transforming how we use computers including our computer's operating system. So FUSE will focus on products "where ‘social' meets sharing; where ‘social' meets real-time; where ‘social' meets media; where ‘social' meets search; where ‘social' meets the cloud plus three screens [PC, mobile device, television and online] and a world of devices."
That last quote may sound like a bunch of nonsense, but it does give us a vague idea of what Microsoft might be trying to do. Clearly, Microsoft isn't too interested in creating another Facebook or MySpace competitor; instead, Microsoft's concept of social is more likely to focus on collaboration and sharing information instead of posting photos and sending pokes on a Website.
Microsoft is already trying things like this with Office 2010's SharePoint Workspace collaboration software, as well as Office 2010's Web apps. We could also see items similar to the Xobni plug-in for Outlook that turns your e-mail client into a social networking hub.
These may be just guesses, but you can bet that unlike Facebook, Twitter, or other social networks, Microsoft is interested in introducing products that it can sell and make money from on day one. So whatever FUSE does work on, I think it's safe to assume the group's projects for everyday consumers will be tied to new or existing desktop programs, with a focus on Microsoft's productivity applications.