TechCrunch has been hard on unified address book provider Plaxo in the past, and probably with due cause, given their previous spam promoting ways, but I am now reevaluating that view based on Plaxo Sync.
I wrote about Plaxo’s improved Sync features back in June; although it sounded good I didn’t really have cause to use it then. Confronted with a “how do I sync various platforms, including the iPhone” problem I hit Google looking for a solution, and I kept finding user recommendations for Plaxo. Plaxo’s Sync tools support a variety of platforms, including Outlook, Internet Explorer (for Yahoo Address Books) Mac OSX and Thunderbird. Unfortunately they can’t sync with Gmail yet, but they can download your contacts from Gmail, although it does sync with Google Calendar.
Plaxo can also download LinkedIn contacts; LinkedIn does offer downloads/ plugins as well but nothing quite as comprehensive as Plaxo. We’ve looked recently at Facebook replacing LinkedIn as a business networking tool, however being able to access LinkedIn connections via Plaxo makes LinkedIn all that much more useful as it delivers access to LinkedIn contacts everywhere, including the iPhone (Plaxo imports into the Mac OSX address book, that can then be synced to an iPhone via iTunes).
The other selling point of Plaxo is the universal contact nature of the product; the ability for people to update their contact details on Plaxo and push that information out to other people is a definite positive.
The basic Plaxo service is free, including the sync functionality. The $49.95 upgrade adds Plaxo support (which if it works well you should never need to use) and duplication filtering. The duplicate filtering tool isn’t brilliant, it missed some duplicates on a test, but after running it a second time it found more; a handy feature but perhaps not worth the $49.95 annual fee.