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01/03/2008

Dear Microsoft: Please Buy Plaxo

Dear Microsoft:

I saw over at TechCrunch that Plaxo is for sale.  Now, I realize that you guys may not know what Plaxo is because you didn't create it and it isn't located within 25 miles of Redmond, WA, but let me explain to you why I think it might make sense to part with a very small portion of your $21.5BN in cash to acquire it.

You see Plaxo is, in theory, one of the single most useful plug-ins for Microsoft Outlook.  I say in theory, because Plaxo is only useful to the extent other people you know also use it.  That's because Plaxo automatically synchronizes contact details between yourself and other Plaxo users.  In theory, if everyone used Plaxo, then your contact list would always be up-to-date and 100% accurate.  This would be fantastic for me and just about every other Outlook user because it would not only insure that we have always have accurate contact data but it would eliminate the numerous annoying e-mails we get from people throughout the year who are changing jobs, cell phone numbers, etc.

As one of the earliest adopters of Plaxo, I remember feeling giddy at the prospect of everyone soon adopting Plaxo and thereafter entering into a state of perpetual contact bliss.  Alas, this never happened as a result a lot of creepy spam-like user acquisition strategies and other generally bone-headed moves by Plaxo.  Sometime around 2005, I entered into a state of depressive resignation that my Plaxo-inspire contact bliss would never be realized, but now with the "leaked" news of their hoped-for sale by their bankers, my own hopes have been raised that contact nirvana may yet be achieved.

Why should you guys in particular buy it?  Well I can think of three very good reasons:

  1. No one is in a better position to have Plaxo reach its goal of near universal adoption than you guys.  You have the clout to embed Plaxo into Outlook.  In doing so, you would practically guarantee that adoption would skyrocket and as adoption skyrocketed the perceived and actual value of Plaxo to its end users would also skyrocket.
  2. Plaxo recently released something called Plaxo Pluse, which is basically a social network built on top of your contact list.  This is a pretty interesting idea and one that holds great promise in existing professional circles where someone's contacts are basically their social network to begin with.  By supercharging Plaxo adoption, you could also rapidly grow Plaxo pluse which would very quickly create a highly credible competitor to Linked-In and probably give you a great chance to establish a professional version of Facebook.  What's more you could buy 100% of this social network for far less that the $240M you shelled out for just 1.6% of Facebook.
  3. What with all the other things you guys have going on you may not have noticed that Outlook really hasn't added a significant new feature since, oh, let's be generous and say 2001.  I can assure you as daily user I have noticed this, especially as other mail clients have rolled out all manner of cool new features.  Sure you've added support for all manner of obscure Microsoft products such as Groove, Sharepoint, Microsoft CRM, etc., but in terms of actually adding new features that make my daily task of sending e-mails, scheduling events, and contacting people, I might as well be using Outlook 97 for all I can tell.  Yes, you bought LookOut and attempted to integrate indexed-search into Outlook, but the Windows team screwed this up miserably when they insisted that the whole thing be integrated into Windows Desktop Search.  Now I know you guys are great developers and all and that no one else appreciates the massive complexity of adding features to a mail client, but perhaps you guys could suck up your pride a bit and actually go out and buy a feature that is truly useful to your patient, but increasingly suffering users.  After all, if there's one application that I spend the most time in, its Outlook, yet this application seems to have been completely devoid of innovation in recent memory while folks such as Zimbra and GMail make it look like it was coded in Fortran in the 70's.  So, do us dumb-ass end users a favor and throw us a bone, add something new, sexy, and truly useful to Outlook (and don't screw it up the way you did LookOut).

Now I know that buying Plaxo won't be easy for you guys.  After all it's a hosted service that uses the Internet and does not take an hour to install or require you to type in a 30 character sequence of random numbers and letters.  Still, take it from me, it's actually a useful application and it has the potential to help reestablish the relevancy of Outlook in an age when it is increasingly looking like it will soon go the way of the dodo bird.

Sincerely,

Bill

January 3, 2008 in Software | Permalink

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The thoughts and opinions on this blog are mine and mine alone and not affiliated in any way with Inductive Capital LP, San Andreas Capital LLC, or any other company I am involved with. Nothing written in this blog should be considered investment, tax, legal,financial or any other kind of advice. These writings, misinformed as they may be, are just my personal opinions.