Microsoft said that its Windows Live group, which produces free online consumer and small business products, is partnering with the leading business-oriented social network -- LinkedIn.
The ties mean that Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) Windows Live users will be able to link between LinkedIn and Windows Live services such as Hotmail and Messenger in order to share contacts, activities and updates.
"With over 75 million members in over 200 countries and a new professional joining approximately every second, LinkedIn is clearly a leader in professional social networking that we're excited to partner with," Jeff Kunins, a group program manager for social networking for Windows Live, said in a post to the Inside Windows Live blog Thursday.
Windows Live is no diminutive set of services either. Microsoft says it had 500 million Windows Live IDs as of April 2010 -- and in February the company boasted that it had 300 million users of Live Messenger. A user needs to have a Live ID in order to get a Live Messenger account.
In providing what Kunins called "deep integration," the updated services let users automatically link contacts among Messenger, Hotmail and other Windows Live products, as well as deliver prioritized updates.
"When you make the LinkedIn connection with Windows Live, your LinkedIn contacts are automatically linked to the same contact you already have stored in Windows Live, so that you have one record with the combined set of information. Now you can compose and send email to your LinkedIn contacts right from Hotmail," Kunins said.
This is just the latest partnership deal that Microsoft has struck with LinkedIn. In November, the software giant inked a similar deal with LinkedIn to connect with the Outlook 2010 email client.
The integration doesn't stop there, Kunins added.
"You probably wouldn't think to associate photos with your LinkedIn activities, but with people tagging in [Live] Photo Gallery, for example, you could tag a photo of someone you saw at a conference, because it's always helpful to put a face to a name," he said.
The ability to link between LinkedIn and Messenger is available now. Microsoft is rolling out LinkedIn features for Hotmail globally over the next three weeks, "depending on where LinkedIn is available," the company said.