Xobni’s Gadgets Bring Third-Party Collaboration Tools to Outlook

Xobni, a popular productivity add-on for Outlook (s msft) that automatically displays additional information about email contacts, has announced that it is making available “gadgets,” third-party additions to Xobni that will allow well-known collaboration tools as Yammer, Chatter, Dropbox, Evernote and Salesforce (s crm) to become an integral part of the Outlook interface.

The first crop of gadgets includes tools for web-based document sharing, lead tracking, issue reporting and monitoring, and note-taking, such as:

  • An Evernote gadget that automatically displays notes containing the name or email address of a particular contact, and allows adding and editing.
  • A Dropbox tool for finding files and sharing them by creating links that are entered into email messages. Drag-and-drop file sending is planned for the future.
  • A JIRA bug tracker tool that allows programmers to update project status inline.
  • A Google Translate tool that automatically translates entire conversations, both incoming and outgoing. Xobni says that the translations are good enough to be helpful for use in customer support.
  • A WebEx tool to schedule meetings, and start them on the fly.

Other gadgets available today include:

  • Productivity: GoldMail
  • Collaboration: Huddle and Microsoft SharePoint
  • Content: Facebook, Flickr, Hoover’s, Klout, LinkedIn, Twitter, Xing, YouTube, Yelp
  • CRM: Salesforce CRM

Xobni was one of the first companies to bring “social CRM” services to the inbox, but has more recently seen significant competition from the likes of Rapportive, Gist and Liaise. By hooking into third-party services, the gadgets can offer offer additional capabilities not offered by Xobni’s competitors.

When I spoke with Xobni representatives recently, they said that the rationale for developing this platform was simple: research shows that in the enterprise, people spend 38 percent of their screen time in Outlook, so it makes sense to make Outlook as capable as possible.

Xobni says that its system relies on open APIs, and it is based on OpenSocial. Developers can create their own gadgets; they can be created with straightforward web development tools. The infrastructure can even be hosted on intranets to take advantage of corporate LDAP servers. Gadgets are not yet part of Xobni for Gmail beta, (s goog) but they are on the way.

The new Xobni gadgets are available from the company’s website. Most of the Xobni Gadgets are free, but the JIRA and Saleforce gadgets are priced at $9.99 per user per year. Xobni handles billing and payment for developers.