The email client is generally the focal point for unified communications. Emails go there. Voicemails can be trasncribed into emails, or sent as attachments or links in an email. Instant messaging sessions and phone calls can be initiated. And now, with the addition of Google Buzz and Outlook Social Connectors, the email client is becoming the focal point for managing social networking as well.
Microsoft and Google have entirely separate approaches to integrating social networking, though. Google Buzz is actually a social networking service itself–integrated into the popular Gmail email interface. Google has faced some serious backlash and challenges related to privacy with Buzz, but privacy issues aside it is basically like having Twitter rolled into Gmail without the 140-character limitation, and you can actually pull your Twitter feed in as well.
The Google approach has some potential as a real-time collaboration platform that can help Google combine tools to deliver a viable unified communications solution, but it actually adds to the messaging noise rather than cutting through the clutter and helping to manage social networking.
Microsoft’s approach, using social connectors with Outlook, provides users with a means of aggregating all communications and activity for a given user in one space. The People Pane in Outlook 2010 shows a complete email history with the given user, calendar events, file attachments, RSS feeds, and social networking comments and status updates.
Microsoft Outlook with social connectors is a much more efficient and productive method of sifting through all of the messaging clutter to be able to quickly and easily find all relevant communications from a given user. There is still room, though, for someone to create a single software application to act as an interface to aggregate all of the various social networks in total, rather than on a contact by contact basis.