Plaxo gets back to roots with Personal Assistant service

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Plaxo says it’s getting out of the social networking game and back to its roots of keeping contact info up to date. And to mark the transition, the Web-based address book service is expanding its offerings to include a new service that automatically updates contacts.

Plaxo got its start in 2002, offering users a way to keep their contacts up-to-date and synced across a broad range of platforms. Over the years, the company made a push into social networking, most notably with its Plaxo Pulse service. But recently, Plaxo began to scale back its social networking ambitions, and on Wednesday, it formally announced plans to refocus its efforts on the address book front.

“We want to be the best online address book,” Plaxo CEO Justin Miller told Macworld.

The company’s Plaxo Personal Assistant service, also unveiled Wednesday, is part of that effort. The Web-based service looks to automate the process of updating the contact information you’ve stored with Plaxo, making sure your address book remains up-to-date.

Personal Assistant compares the contacts in your Plaxo address book with contact information from other public sources. (It’s able to do this without sharing any private information, Miller stresses.) If Personal Assistant finds any contact information discrepancies, it gives you the option of updating the data in your address book.

Plaxo currently teams up with ZoomInfo for the contact info that Plaxo Personal Assistant searches. Miller says his company is in talks with other data providers as well.

Plaxo Personal Assistant joins an array of Web-based address book offerings from Plaxo. The company’s free Basic service lets users store all their contacts in one unified place; it includes a de-duper tool that identifies and removes duplicate entries. A free Plaxo iPhone app lets users access that online address book from their smartphone. (Plaxo also offers mobile apps for the BlackBerry and Windows Mobile platforms, with an Android offering coming soon.)

The company’s paid service—rebranded as Plaxo Platinum Sync—promises two-way real-time syncing between your online address book and other sources including Mac OS X’s Address Book and iOS devices. (Platinum Sync also supports Gmail, Outlook, BlackBerry, and Windows Mobile.) The paid service—which costs $60 a year—consistent address books that are accessible from any device they use.

The new Plaxo Personal Assistant costs $80 a year. Plaxo Platinum Sync users can bundle that service with Personal Assistant for $120 a year.

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