Updated: Xobni, the startup that Microsoft almost bought to socialize its dated Outlook inbox, has now done a mind-meld with professional social network LinkedIn, another company Microsoft was reported to consider buying at one point.
While computer users are increasingly relying on the e-mail within social networks such as Facebook, or corporate developed social networks behind firewalls, Xobni (inbox spelled backwards) makes a software plug-in for the Microsoft Outlook inbox that helps users more easily find people, contact information, e-mails and attachments.
The tool sits as a sidebar next to the community page inside Outlook, so that when a user clicks on a message, it automatically generates a profile of his or her interactions with the sender of the message.
The profile includes a photo of the contact, when he or she checks e-mail, and the number of ingoing and outgoing messages. It also pulls the contact's phone number from his or her signature and enables click-to-call capabilities via Skype.
Now Xobni is talking to LinkedIn's APIs, so the sidebar can include LinkedIn public profiles, which typically include information about current a contact's employer, job title and link to their LinkedIn profile and contact photo.
The move comes a month and a half after Xobni exited beta and about three months after Xobni Co-Founder Matt Brezina told me to expect integrations with other networks such as LinkedIn. Still waiting for Xobni to create a plug-in for Gmail but that will probably take awhile.
Also, Xoopit already does that, so there's probably no rush. Read this fresh ReadWriteWeb post for more info on Xoopit.
Still, as I've written before, traditional e-mail applications such as Outlook need to start including social applications or risk losing out to Facebook, MySpace and, yes, LinkedIn.
Consumers and business workers are increasingly living in their social network, so e-mail tool providers will want to give them the comforts of a digital home in Outlook. This includes detailed social contact information, which Xobni renders visible in Outlook.
Can a company build an entire business around an inbox tool? They can integrate it with as many on-premise or Web mail apps as they want but I'm not so sure these businesses are viable on their own.
Plus, these tools just seem like they would naturally have happier homes at Microsoft, Yahoo or some e-mail provider.Some larger vendor will pick Xobni or Xoopit up this year or next.
The acquirers of Xobni and Xoopit may not be Microsoft, who according to TechCrunch failed to acquire Xobni, or Google, which seems intent on upgrading Gmail on its own.
But IBM, Oracle or SAP could be interested in these applications as people come to require more social e-mail experiences.