Xobni for Gmail: Just in time or a little too late?

The popular tool for Outlook finally starts rolling out (in BETA) for Gmail, but as cloud-based mail has evolved, is the tool late to the show?

I remember the first time I saw Xobni in action. I remember being impressed with the way it indexed email contacts in Outlook and brought a user-friendly interface to the sidebar window of the email program.

But, alas, it was a tool for Outlook only and, at the time, I was being forced to use Entourage, the Outlook equivalent (if you can call it that) for the Mac. And if there was no support for another Microsoft client, there certainly wasn't going to be support for a cloud-based mail program like Gmail. In the end, I came to accept that I couldn't be a Xobni user.

Fast forward a few years and Xobni is finally breaking into the world of cloud-based e-mail. A few days ago, the company announced a beta version of Xobni for Gmail - and invitations that spattered across the Web were swooped up in no time. The company also started taking names for Alpha testing of Xobni for iPhone and Xobni for Android, which means it's on the fast track to bring the service anywhere you're managing email.

Admittedly, I signed up to be a beta tester right away - but as the weekend progressed, I still hadn't been tapped to give it a spin. In the meantime, though, I started doing some homework about Xobni's progress and the arrival of other products. Sure, I'm excited to do a test run on Xobni - which has grown to incorporate social media updates, Blackberry integration and some specialty features for businesses.  But I also was left whether I still needed a tool like Xobni or if there were even other similar tools out there that might do a better job.

At the end of the day, I don't know if I still need this tool. Gmail has a decent search feature that incorporates Docs and contacts, the ability to sync contacts between browser and smartphone, adding a contact directly from an email is still cumbersome, but possible. And Gmail is even OK (not great) at managing potential duplicates.

I've even installed and started indexing my Google accounts with CloudMagic, a browser extension that enhances search of mail, contacts, documents, presentations and more. As Google Apps gains some ground for businesses - as well as my own world - that seems more valuable than utilizing some of Xobni's tools.

Again, I haven't tried Xobni for Gmail yet (get the hint yet, Xobni?) so I'm not yet bashing it or even criticizing it for being late to the update game. Regardless, though, I'm happy to see a product like Xobni morph into the cloud.

For a guy like me, a Mac user left out in the cold in the past, I'm happy to see that, as a cloud guy, my forgotten-about experiences of the past may finally be coming to an end.