RealTime IT News

AOL to Offer Integrated Data Management

With all the new and free services America Online is offering lately -- and all the media to manage -- a little help on organizing that information wouldn't hurt.

Enter Plaxo, the Web-based contact management service. The company has struck a deal with AOL that lets AOL customers and AIM users import, export and synchronize contact information in e-mail clients such as Microsoft Outlook, Outlook Express and third party Web-based e-mail address books.

The deal also means AOL's Instant Messaging users can use Plaxo to manage their Buddy list, for example.

With the agreement -- a beta will be available at the end of this month -- AIM users will be able to automatically pull contact information from third party address books to "pre-populate, or build upon, their Buddy List features."

In addition, the agreement will enable AOL members, AIM users and Plaxo members to detect AIM presence information from within Plaxo and Plaxo-enabled platforms, such as Outlook and Outlook Express.

A new AOL/AIM Screen Name field will be added to both Plaxo and Outlook 'v-cards' and the AOL Running Man icon will appear in contact lists and emails to let users know when AIM buddies are online, according to AOL.

The move is yet another signal the company is committed to the plan of converging voice, video and data in new applications. In this case, it's offering a little maintenance help with all that media.

Last month AOL announced it would move to an ad-supported portal, looking to increase revenue from the growing online advertising market.

Chamath Palihapitiya, vice president and general manager for AIM and ICQ at America Online, said since AOL unveiled its converged communication experience via the portal, the company has seen a 13 percent increase in its base.

"That is huge," he said. "And it is a great sign that the strategy is the right one, resonating with our user base. We want the power of that management."

The deal with AOL puts Plaxo in a new high-profile stratosphere.

Introduced in 2002, Plaxo 2.0 was launched as a free service that securely updates and maintains information in your address book. Before today's announcement the company boasted five million users, most of which signed up by strong word of mouth or by playing around with it after receiving an e-mail notice to update their contact information with a friend or colleague.

"It is an amazing opportunity for us," said Ben Golub, president and CEO of Plaxo.

"We will also enable Plaxo users to detect AIM presence within the Plaxo service and Outlook, giving them instant access to their friends, family and colleagues."

Plaxo checks in with listed contacts automatically, making sure their data is current. Recipients the notice and can then update the information and return it to you, where it is then integrated into your address book.

"By combining highly accurate and available contact information with the ability to instantly see who is online and available to chat, we are providing a more integrated communication experience for our millions of customers," Golub said.

Plaxo will also integrate access to the AIM service into its software and AIM users will be given the opportunity to install the Plaxo plug-in for Outlook or Outlook Express while downloading or upgrading the AIM service.