Plaxo reboots, gets in sync

A few years ago, Philippe Kahn, who headed up Borland and started a couple of other companies including LightSurf and Starfish Software said, “Synchronization between various devices needs to happen quite automatically, without complication and has to be transparent.” With the new Plaxo 3.0, Kahn’s wishes are almost coming true.

plaxologo.gifNow you can sync your Google Calendar and Address Book with your corporate calendar and address book Exchange/Outlook, Apple Apps, LinkedIn, and any other web service or software you prefer to use. (I say almost because there are still some platforms that are not supported, and the beta release isn’t quite bug free.) The Mountain View, Calif.-based start-up has just executed a reboot as a web-based service, and is now focusing on syncing. The company is also making all the information available via its mobile page: m.plaxo.com.

The Wall Street Journal reports that this overhaul is designed to make the still-unprofitable company more appetizing for potential acquirers. The new Plaxo 3.0 has taken about a year of development, according to Todd Masonis, Founder and VP of Products, whom we met with last week.

With this new release, Plaxo is trying to overcome it user-unfriendly image, including over-aggressive update features that resulted in a backlash. It is also trying to take some of the more popular elements of social networks and adding them to its service, with a focus on Sync.

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The company has added a new feature called the Pulse, which allows you to automatically pull Flickr photos and latest blog posts on a special wall, is your contacts have their website, blog or Flickr information embedded in their address.

It is a feature that 30Boxes first rolled out, and has since become very popular including on Facebook. This feature and other calendar enhancements have come via the HipCal crew, a tiny start-up Plaxo had acquired last year.

So how does Plaxo 3.0 work? The new web-based interface is clean, and pretty simple to understand. An easy to follow start-up screen hand holds your way through the set-up process. There are some serious bugs with this beta release, and we had some problems syncing with Google and Yahoo, but the older Outlook & Apple Address Book synced without much problems.

One of the features I like a lot in this new release is the ability to add someone’s email address and instantly find their information on Plaxo, and then just being able to add them to my list of contacts. No scanning the cards, or typing someone’s information. Given the large number of people I meet on a daily basis, don’t blame me for liking this shortcut. Plaxo says they have 2 billion email addresses, so finding someone are pretty high. The integration of Yahoo Maps and automatic directions are another reason you will like this version of Plaxo.

But its not all peaches and cream: The service wasn’t quite responsive in Apple browsers, though it seemed zippy enough on Windows XP – both Firefox and IE. We are assuming that these are first day jitters, and company will be able to overcome performance issues, in time. Robert Scoble has had some other issues.

Whatever the reasons, the new Plaxo 3.0, while still in beta is good enough for folks to give the company, and their new service at least a second look.

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