At MacWorld | iWorld 2012 I had the chance to meet with Mike Muhney, one of the originators of ACT!, the software that created the CRM industry. Mr. Muney is now the co-founder and CEO of VIPorbit Software International, Inc.
Mr. Muhney says he started in sales, and in those days IBM groomed its salespeople to build relationships in order to sell better. It was with the relationship building background that ACT! was developed. After his career with IBM, Mr. Muhney decided to leave the Windows platform entirely in 2004. He got his first iPhone in 2007 but still wasn’t completely satisfied with the way iCal and Contacts are separated in iOS. VIPorbit was created to coordinate information between these two functions and to add some of the functionality of an ACT! style application.
VIPorbit was released last February and touted in the media as a game changer and better than ACT!. Given the brains behind the two applications is the same person (only now with more experience), it shouldn’t be a surprise Mr. Muhney’s project is gaining support and garnering praise.
In our conversation, Mr. Muhney said the real target for VIPorbit is the “prosumer.” This is not to say it’s for the power shoppers in your life, but for the busy professional who could really use an expert Administrative Assistant but doesn’t have the budget. It’s also good for people who realize they have a lot of information to manage and that human memory can be a bit unreliable.
On the topic of the product name, Mr. Muhney said that everyone we deal with is a kind of VIP, and orbit was chosen based on the non-astronomical definition as a person’s sphere of influence.
How does it work?
VIPorbit will import, on command, all of the contacts currently on your iDevice. There are two default orbits that can’t be moved or deleted: “All” and “Favs.” The rest of the orbits are user created and can be rearranged by a drag and drop screen dedicated to orbit management. On the main contacts/orbits screen, there is a tab (looks a bit like a ringed planet) you can tap to alphabetize the orbits. This can be especially handy if you develop a long list of orbits, which is easy to do because you can create as many orbits as you need. Any contact entry can be sent (drag and drop) to any number of orbits.
Each contact can be selected to get a look at the scheduled activities, a log of events, details such as address and phone number, what orbits the contact is in and a button to connect (electronically) with the contact. The obvious phone connection is the first option but you can also e-mail, connect on Skype, send a Twitter message, etc.
From the dashboard screen, you can see calls you need to make, meetings to attend, and to do tasks to complete. There are buttons that give you access to your calendar, backup your data, or get additional info. There are also Find and More functions at the bottom. The More option is where you can access the management and customization options. Find is one of my favorite functions in any application I work with. The Find in VIPorbit is no slouch—you can search by any of eight different criteria, from first or last name to company to the country. I personally like this one because there are times I can’t quite remember a last name but I know what company a person works for or the city in which they live.
For the security minded, when you first set up VIPorbit you can enter a four digit pass code. You will then need to use the pass code to open the app whether it is an initial launch or waking up your iDevice because it timed out. The program also lets you pick two verification questions just in case you forget your pass code. Answer the questions correctly and the program will show you your pass code.
The iPhone version is $10 and iPad is $20. The primary difference is how the program uses the available screen space. The iPad version gives the user more options in the drag and drop and the custom arrangement areas. If you are worried about losing info there is an additional $5 per year service that gives you iCloud backup capability (Back Up My Stuff). The next upgrade/version will have more functionality and will be able to back-flush data to the iPhone. Another fee service is VIP Synch—a $5 per month service that lets you use a real time, on command, synch function, but this is only available currently for iPhone and iPad.
There is much more this app is capable of, but this article would get too long trying to outline everything. Suffice it to say VIPorbit is a very capable program with features galore and an ease of use that makes initially entering the contact the hardest part.
Is it contagious?
If you need to keep track of all the important data regarding our interactions with the people in our lives, then VIPorbit is a must have. At the show, Mr. Muhney said the iPad version was still at Apple waiting for approval. Just this past week, that approval was, as expected, granted. Given the software’s pedigree, I expect we will be seeing more from VIPorbit.