April 22, 2009

Smart(er) Address Books

Is it just me, or did earlier versions of Palm Desktop and Microsoft Outlook represent the high water mark of innovation for address books?

Here's a simple example of "intelligence" I would have expected to be standard in a modern Address Book book. Auto fill for address fields. My browser can do it, but my Address Book (Apple Address Book) can not. As I enter or modify contacts working at the same company, the Address Book has enough context to know that there is a high likelihood that all the employees will have the same address. In fact, they'll share many common characteristics like work domain name (email), area code prefix for office #s, etc.

A modern address book should intelligently see the common elements between contacts and both copy and normalize information between contacts with similar contexts. I shouldn't have to re-enter the work address of contacts who all work at the same company. Even if the work address is different between contacts at the same company (which occurs with increasing frequency at large companies with multiple sites), the % times that context doesn't yield the right answer is lower than the times it is right.

Normalization is my second request. Ever "lose" a contact during a search because of a simple misspelling of the company name, etc. Why wouldn't a modern address book normalize contact information across contacts sharing a context (aka company name)?

Another minor peeve. While Salutations are used less frequently, why not default to assigning male names "Mr."? Men don't have a married and unmarried state to navigate salutation wise?

My final idea is a bit harder to implement, but seems obvious to me. Is there is root address book in the cloud, at least for companies? An internet white pages, of sorts. If so, if I could soft match entered Address Book information like company name and allow the user to create a specific match based on additional information on the paper business card I'm entering. Once a explicit match is created, remaining contact fields could be filled immediately from the cloud. Even cooler would be a soft link to this contact info (pointer) ala Plaxo, so as companies moved, etc., I'd have the latest contact information for all my contacts with the same context.

I'm sure CRM apps do some of this, but this level of intelligence isn't processor intensive or particularly hard to develop. What personal or business Address Book has these and the hundreds of additional innovations that one might expect to see in a network connected 2009 Address Book?

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