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Microsoft offers 'MySpace' alternative

New social networking site targets business

Microsoft introduced the first in a planned series of online communities for users of its Dynamics applications to provide forums where peers can exchange best practices. Centred on specific industries or job titles, the first community is aimed at finance professionals such as corporate controllers, finance managers and accountants.

The software vendor made the announcement at its Convergence 2007 conference in San Diego as a way to help its Dynamics customers better connect with their external communities of customers, suppliers and partners.

"You can think of it as the MySpace for financial professionals," said Satya Nadella, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Business Solutions group. "It's how you can have a Convergence [show] 365 days a year."

In talking to customers, one of their main reasons for attending the Convergence show is to engage with their peers, said James Utzschneider, general manager of Dynamics marketing at Microsoft. The vendor has been spending a lot of time recently looking at the Web 2.0 world to discover how the social-networking technology mostly aimed at teenagers could be applied to a business setting, he added.

Microsoft demonstrated the online community concept at last year's Convergence conference and plans to bring more communities online later this year.

The online finance community can be accessed on Microsoft's Dynamics website. It features forums, blogs, articles, columns and tagging. While Microsoft has created the fabric of the site, the company intends it to be run by the community, according to Craig Dewar, director of Microsoft's Dynamics community marketing. That's why the site is as yet unnamed, with Microsoft encouraging the community to vote on what to call itself. Users also have the option to rate content within the community. So, far the name ‘Net Knowledge’ is proving the most popular, trailed by ‘Finance Forum’ and ‘Capital Chat’.

In about a month, Microsoft will go live with further networking capability on the site so that users can create working groups within the community, which are either open to everyone or private where participants receive invitations to join, Dewar said. He sees the upcoming functionality as a good opportunity for user groups to establish themselves in the online community.

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