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Plaxo Updates Its Contacts With Cisco

Contact management provider Plaxo has a big new booster in its corner: hardware giant Cisco Systems, which has joined a round of financing for the company.

Plaxo made the announcement that Cisco invested $7 million in the latest financing round as the company launched its latest contact management release, Plaxo 2.0.

"We represent a new level of Internet infrastructure and traditionally they [Cisco] are very interested in hardware infrastructure around networks," Todd Masonis, Plaxo's co-founder and vice president of products, told internetnews.com.

"Plaxo is a software network, but it's fundamentally trying to solve the same problem. Instead of trying to keep computers connected, it's keeping people connected."

Unlike the popular social networking sites, which function as a kind of Web site application, "fundamentally we're the network piece of infrastructure and I think that's why they found us interesting," he added.

To date, Plaxo has raised close to $20 million from investors who include Cisco, Sequoia Capital, Globespan Ventures, Ram Shriram and Yahoo! co-founder Tim Koogle.

Plaxo unveiled new features on its 2.0 version recently. The contact management tool integrates with Microsoft Outlook and Outlook Express in order to help provide seamless and automated synchronized updates from authorized contacts.

With version 2.0, the system is integrated with Yahoo! Search, allowing users to search directly from their Outlook client. And with the official release of Plaxo 2.0 today, the company unveiled additional new features.

It said Plaxo 2.0 now allows users to synchronize their calendars, tasks and notes. The new version has a redesigned user interface and includes a "microblog" feature.

Plaxo co-founder Todd Masonis said when Plaxo started out, the company realized it had to solve three key problems in keeping people connected to their contacts. It had to be updated, synchronized and people had to have easy access to their information.

"Once we did that, a lot of our users told us that was great but to really solve the problem you need to include Calendar, Tasks and Notes," Masonis said.

Masonis acknowledged that Plaxo isn't the only company trying to tackle the contact management problem for users. But he was quick to explain what makes Plaxo's attempt at solving the problem different.

"A lot of different people are approaching this problem in different ways." For one, Microsoft's Outlook/Exchange server combination can be tricky for managing contacts from outside a network, or in sharing those contacts. He also argued that Web mail providers essentially offer "data in the sky" and then attempt to tackle contact management issues with a separate Web site.

"With Plaxo, we're kind of making a bet that people don't necessarily want to switch out of what they're already using and works well. They just want this functionality to work and they don't want to think about it," Masonis said. "This is our getting it done, getting it to work release."

The release also includes a development API to help Plaxo partners integrate the product with their internal applications.

The company boasts over two million members for its free product and currently has two revenue streams, a supported offering and its Yahoo! Search integration deal. Plaxo expects to offer a premium version later this year.



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