It's been quite a while since Paul Allen worked to make Microsoft's products better, but he's doing just that.
While he hasn't rejoined the software maker he left more than 25 years ago, Allen is backing an effort to improve Microsoft Outlook. Allen's Vulcan Ventures announced on Monday the launch of its Xiant subsidiary and a beta of its first product, Xiant Filer. It is available as a free, 60-day trial, and Vulcan plans to eventually sell downloads of the product directly as well as through other Web sites.
"It's a return of sorts to Paul's roots," Vulcan Vice President Chris Purcell said in a statement. "Xiant Filer started as a personal project to help Paul keep up with heavy e-mail traffic. It worked so well we all started using it, which led us to take it to market."
Allen has been involved in a number of projects in and out of the tech world since leaving Microsoft. However, he has generally been in areas that steer well clear of Microsoft. Vulcan has also backed Gist, another Outlook ad-on.
With Xiant Filer, Allen is wading into competition with Microsoft and several companies that make their own Outlook add-ons. The product sounds similar in concept to Xobni, another tool for better managing an Outlook in-box. Xobni exited beta earlier this year.