DEMO: Time for E-mail Without the Hassles

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. — What’s new with Microsoft Outlook? Not much, in serial entrepreneur Todd Miller’s view, and that’s the problem. He recalls being frustrated by how time-consuming it was to update contact information in Outlook when he was an active user back in 2001.

“It’s pretty much the same now,” he said here at the DEMO conference. If a sender doesn’t include a vCard (a digital business card), fields like name, address and phone number have to be individually copy-and-pasted.

Enter Gwabbit, a $19.95 download for Outlook available from Miller’s company, Technicopia. Gwabbit (sounds like “grab it”) scans incoming e-mail, identifies contact info and moves it to Outlook’s contact list. In Miller’s demo, it took Gwabbit about five seconds to add a new contact from an e-mail, versus a minute and ten seconds to copy and paste individual fields. You can also click the Gwabbit button to scan older e-mails and update your list.

Miller said there’s plenty of technology behind what appears as the playful Gwabbit icon that activates the software. “We use things like probability modeling to identify common formats like job title following a name,” he told In the case of a threaded e-mail, the software might miss the contact info, but the user can simply highlight the info and click Gwabbit to make the transfer.

While Miller jokes his market is limited to the “half a billion Outlook users” worldwide, the company plans to expand to new markets. “We’ll be offering the same kind of thing for BlackBerry users with the Gwabbit pop-up,” he said.

The company also offers a sliding scale for enterprises or big group purchases, but at $19.95, Miller said he thinks it’s priced low enough to be an impulse buy with broad appeal.

Betty to the rescue?

cc:Betty tackles attacks a broader e-mail issue and works with most any e-mail system. The service aims to provide users with the digital equivalent of a top notch secretary, organizing e-mails and the images, video and other content that comes with them.

Whenever you cc: an e-mail reply to [email protected], the software creates a new Web page where you can see the information in the e-mail organized in a variety of ways. For example, any attached images are automatically organized into a photo gallery. The free service went live as a public beta today.

Michael Cerda, CEO of Cc:Betty, told the company already has new features in the pipeline it will roll out soon, including a search function in a week or so. He’s used the service himself to help coordinate schedules and responsibilities with other parents involved in his son’s basketball games.

“It’s a great way to keep everyone notified of what’s going on,” he said.

Anyone cc’ed on a cc:Betty e-mail will be invited to view their own Cc:Betty mailspace on the Web. The company says Cc:Betty works with any e-mail platform. No downloading or account creation is required.

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