The great Microsoft-Facebook social alliance

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In the world of technology, it is uncanny how today’s darlings can quickly become tomorrow’s also-rans. We all know what happened to MySpace, the once social networking behemoth, which turned into a ghost town in the blink of an eye, and is now desperately trying to find a way recapture the magic of the old glory days with little or no success.

With that in mind, a new battle is emerging  between the current king of social, Facebook, and the leader of online search Google, as they go head to head  to win the hearts and minds of consumers. The notable omission in these discussions is the oft-maligned company Microsoft, which I think will play a bigger role in these battle than most people think.

Techcrunch, last week posted an intriguing  article outlining Google’s new strategy to conquer the social web through Google Me. Their previous attempts with products like buzz, and Orkut and the now cancelled Wave,  have not gained wide traction with the general public as they had hoped. The article points out that Google will try to attack Facebook’s weakest point, Music, which is basically why some people still stick with MySpace, by augmenting GoogleMe, with their yet to be launched music service. In addition to Music, Google has been been on a buying spree lately  acquiring social app maker, Slide and Jambool, a social payments and virtual currency platform,  which together with their $100 Million+ invested in Zynga, makers immensely popular Farmville and Mafia Wars games, will constitute the core components of their rumored social network.

Enter Microsoft, at stage left. The tech giant already has a great relationship with Facebook, with its deep integration with the upcoming WP7, facebook docs, facebook chat interoperability with messenger,  and search results powered by Bing. This excerpt from a post on the Bing map blog, highlights the social features available on the Bing iPhone app as it relates to social networks.

Do you ever find yourself standing in front of the movie theater trying to figure out what movie to go to? Or how about you are in the car with friends looking for a place to eat.  Wouldn’t it be helpful to hear what your friends are saying about a movie, restaurants or a product while you are on the go?…there is a feature called Social search, where you can search through your Facebook and Twitter accounts on your phone and see combined status updates from your friends. If there is an instant answer available, we’ll show you that first, followed by social results.

FB-ZuneSo what is the relevance of all this? I think the next step is for Microsoft and Facebook to integrate Zune as the default music service. It is a win win for both companies because in one fell swoop, Facebook cures its music deficiency to counter Google music services and to an extent any cloud based iTunes offering, while MS gets its Zune platform exposed to 500+ million users. I find it enjoyable not only to have unlimited music, but also to be able to use the Zunecard to discover new music through what my friends are listening to, browse through playlists of like minded listeners or just have the software recommend some picks for me based on my playing preferences. The Zune HD  Facebook app  features a button to easily post what the current song being played by user so this could be a good starting point for the venture.

If Microsoft can then add more indie artists unaffiliated with big labels, perhaps make it easy for them to be featured in the Zune marketplace, local event discovery tools and band promos, tour calendar with reminders and notifications when favored bands are playing in the area, a seamless way to purchase concert tickets and top it with lyrics and a karaoke feature that can be easily shared with friends, they will surely have a winner on their hands. GoogleMe with music services and an iTunes  cloud based solution will be playing catch up for a long time if not forever.

Please check back tomorrow (Thursday, August 12) for part two and Friday (August 13th) for part three and conclusion of the article.

More about the topics: facebook, wp7