Microsoft users get ability to ship via FedEx from Outlook

FedEx offers free add-in for scheduling pickups and tracking packages

FedEx has created a free add-in for Microsoft's Outlook e-mail and collaboration software that lets users check delivery rates, schedule pickups and track packages.

Called FedEx QuickShip, the new tool lets users of Outlook 2003 or Outlook 2007 send packages to contacts in their address books via FedEx with a single mouse click, according to Chris Bryant, senior product manager for Microsoft's Office platform strategy team. That capability saves FedEx customers from having to upload or re-type the address and contact info of recipients, he added.

The Web services add-in is a prelude to other collaborative offerings being planned by Microsoft and FedEx, which bought the chain of Kinko's copying and printing stores four years ago in order to gain access to new electronic document delivery services and other technologies.

Future joint offerings will include the ability to print documents stored in a Microsoft SharePoint library on printers in Kinko's stores. FedEx is also working enable users to print Word documents on Kinko's printers, Bryant said. In the latter scenario, users would be able to control the type of paper and bindings that are used, and whether the documents would be picked up at the store or shipped to an address.

FedEx Quickship was shown off by Bill Gates, Microsoft's soon-to-be-departing chairman, during his opening keynote at the software vendor's Office System Developer Conference 2008. About 1,000 attendees are expected at the conference, which is being held in California.

The conference is aimed at encouraging developers to write applications that integrate with Microsoft's dominant Office suite or that connect it with back-end applications from vendors such as SAP AG or Oracle. Previous versions were invitation-only affairs held at Microsoft headquarters, but Bryant said the company decided to open the registration to this year's event.

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