Xobni, if you are new, is a popular Microsoft Outlook plugin that lets you know more about the sender of an email. You get to see the sender’s picture, Linked profile, tweets and, if public, their Facebook profile right next to the email message. Xobni probably uses the sender’s name and email address to bring this information and it is quite efficient at that.
If you write the word Inbox backwards, you get Xobni. If you write Evil Xobni backwards, you get Live Inbox – that’s exactly the name of a new Outlook plugin which is showcasing itself as a better alternative to Xobni. The feature set is similar and so is the UI - compare the screenshots of Live Inbox with Xobni below to get an idea.
If you have used Xobni before, you’ll have absolutely no trouble getting to speed with Live Inbox as this new program has lot in common with Xobni.
Once you install the plugin, you need to connect it with your Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts. It then offers a rich profile of the email sender in the sidebar, much like Xobni, and if there are multiple matches, you can pick any of the matching profiles manually.
The bottom half of the Live Inbox sidebar displays a list of email messages and file attachments that you have exchanged with the sender in the past. Xobni does this as well. There’s a unified instant search box to help you quickly find contacts or one of your old emails. The Live Inbox website says that it returns search results “50 times faster than Outlook” though I did not experience that difference in my testing.
Live Inbox is expected to become available for $29.95 though you may use this link to download the free 30-day trial right now. Xobni is available in both free (that’s what I use) and paid edition that costs $9.99 per month.
Live Inbox does mostly work as advertised - I tried it on Microsoft Outlook 2010 running on a Windows 7 machine - and, because of the one-time fee, it may appeal to Xobni Pro users who otherwise have to pay $9.99 per month. If you are using the free version of Xobni, I see no reason for making the switch. That said, I find it amusing that the company, which has only created an almost exact replica of another successful product without much innovation, is still calling their inspiration “evil.”
Here’s an ET Now video where Mahesh Murthy and Sudhir Syal discuss Live Inbox from the funding perspective. The website has no information about the founders but it looks like a product of Instacoll, the same team that worked with Sabeer Bhatia in the past to create Live Documents, an online office suite.