Xobni Charges for Outlook Add-On

If you’re an e-mail pack rat like me, you let your inbox fill up with thousands of messages of varying degrees of importance knowing you will need to refer to some old conversation or contact at some point down the road. The problem is, the e-mail client used by a vast majority of businesses, Microsoft Outlook, does a poor job of managing all that mail.

In May 2008, San Francisco startup Xobni (“inbox” spelled backwards) released a free add-on for Outlook that indexes e-mail messages for speedy searches. I’m one of the two million people who have downloaded it, and it’s proven so useful that I wouldn’t think of launching Outlook without it. Companies, executives, co-workers, topics, attachments — anything that’s passed through my e-mail is all there for me to pull up with a nearly-instant search.

On Wednesday, Xobni announced a premium version of the software that adds extra features, like the ability to fine-tune searches, search through calendar appointments, and to include Xobni’s automatic suggestions when you’re typing the names of e-mail recipients. The company is charging a one-time fee of $29.99.

This is not likely to catapult the company into profitability any time soon, since co-founder Matt Brezina says he would be happy if more than 4% of existing users signed up for the premium version. But he tells me that this is the first of several revenue sources Xobni hopes to draw from in the future. The company will release a version of Xobni for Research in Motion’s Blackberry some time in the near future. Brezina says he’s also interested in exploring web-based mail.

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