LinkedIn is networking, and one of the side benefits is that it also stores contact information. Unfortunately, the tools to get contact info out and sync’d to a computer or PDA are primitive at best.
Plaxo does a great job syncing calendar, notes, tasks and of course contacts, but doesn’t have any networking capability. It does have a feature where other Plaxo users who happen to be in your contacts list are kept up to date automatically. Otherwise you have to do it the old fashioned way, or use their near-spam update email function.
The two need to get together. It just makes sense that the folks you tend to contact are people you’re close to, or at least familiar with, and those people are likely in your network. But not always, so there needs to be a little leeway.
The only thing that’s missing from both of them is a good PDA interface/application. Here’s the vision: You’re sitting in a bar/restaurant/trade show booth, and you learn of a need. Out comes the PDA, tap, tap, search, search, and off goes a request to someone you know, followed shortly by beaming the contact to the person you were talking to, followed (perhaps) by their being linked in to your network.
More and more people need their data to be portable – the Lifedrive is evidence of that. I think, though, the solution will lie in synchronized web apps like Plaxo, Backpackit, and the like. I don’t think it will be too much longer before people are going to see networking as an integral part of the contact/email/PIM experience. I know it’s new right now, and people are getting used to how the systems work and how best to use them, but soon it will be something folks just expect to have.
When you tie all of this together, you have LinkedIn, plus Plaxo, plus Outlook all on the web with a small client on the desktop/laptop/PDA to facilitate use when you’re not connected.
Who will offer it first?