Microsoft gets

Spalding Barker review of Microsoft

» Posted by on May 23, 2012 in Marketing | 0 comments

Microsoft, under it’s FUSE research arm, has just released (pronounced Social) to the public. We spent some time checking it out –  here are some initial thoughts.

The product is being positioned as a combination of search (it uses Bing, although they don’t make it obvious) and social media features implemented in what seems to be a well thought-out,  blended manner.  Microsoft is positioning the product as a research tool for students rather than another search engine or social media platform. was first rolled out to a small number of Colleges and Universities in December and has just been made available to the public.

We fired up with a sign-up, which was a snap using either your Facebook or your Windows live I.D.  The interface is clean and clear, asking you to identify groups or people that you would like to follow in broad categories.  Note: You need to be 18 years old to use the product and your searches are “public” unless you change your settings.  (Not a big deal, unless you are looking up your favorite racy porn star and you ever want to get a job or a date.)

Searches pull together both traditional Internet searches and social media posts in an interesting and very visual mix.  You can then pick those that you find interesting and post your results to your social media channel of choice.

You can create visually interesting and compelling posts via a “visual montage”.  It reminds me a little bit of a more text friendly Pinterest screen, but with search results rather than user identified or generated images.

“Video parties” are an interesting social media feature, allowing the user to create or join interest groups sharing video on any topic.  Most of the ones that I looked at were using already existing video content rather than freshly created content.

Searches are viewable and shareable ,so I was able to see how students doing research might use the product. Remember that the audience is global.  You can collaborate with anyone, and groups come together and form based upon common interest rather than geography.

My first impression is that it’s pretty: nice user interface, clean and well thought-out, easy to navigate and collaborate with other people.

For an industry known for its splashy roll outs, Microsoft has been very low key about the project.  Time will tell if is a major push for the company, a experiment as to what works in the marketplace,  a trial balloon for features that may be added to other products (or all of the above.)  Microsoft calls it “an experimental research tool for students.”

I look forward to spending some additional time with the product.

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