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Microsoft continues Windows Live's social push

Hotmail gets new features, including ties to LinkedIn and Facebook Chat, while online version of Office adds the ability to embed Excel or PowerPoint documents into a blog post.

Aiming to continue having its Windows Live services play nice with others, Microsoft today said it is adding LinkedIn and Facebook chat ties to Hotmail and Messenger.

In a blog post, Microsoft said that the LinkedIn connection will allow users of both services to more easily keep tabs on their activities.

Among the added features are auto-contact linking, being able to use Messenger to get updates on what LinkedIn contacts are doing, and making it easy to use Messenger to share updates with one's LinkedIn network. Hotmail is also getting the ability to chat with Facebook friends, a feature that is already being tested in Messenger.

"With nearly 50 percent of users actively using two or more social networks, linking social networks together becomes a messy business for your contact list if not handled with care," Windows Live group program manager Jeff Kunins said in the blog post.

Microsoft has made connecting to third-party social networks a key emphasis in a number of product updates ranging from Messenger and Hotmail to its photo- and video-sharing products to Outlook, which also now boasts a social connector feature.

Starting today, Microsoft says that users can connect their Messenger and Windows Live profiles with LinkedIn, while the Hotmail tie to LinkedIn will roll out starting today and over the next three weeks to various places where LinkedIn is available.

Separately, Microsoft said today that users of Microsoft's online Office tools will now be able to embed a PowerPoint slide or Excel chart into their blog or Web site.

Microsoft also said it is expanding its trial of the Web-based version of Office to seven more countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Russia, and Switzerland. The online versions of Excel, Word, PowerPoint and OneNote have already been available in the U.S and Canada as well as the United Kingdom and Ireland.

For more on the Microsoft-LinkedIn tie, check out this YouTube video with Brandon Duncan from LinkedIn talking with Microsoft's Joel Franusic about the new arrangement.