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Like a virtual personal assistant for your e-mail, Cannonball is launching today to bring some intuition back to your inbox.
Cannonball’s free iPad app takes advantage of the tablet’s larger screen to sort important e-mail to the left side of the display, while less important “leisure” messages, like mailing lists and daily deals, get shoved to the right.
It’s an interface meant to replicate the way many of us sort physical mail — into piles for important things like bills, less important messages, and junk. “Basically, we want to get people to love e-mail again,” co-founder Jim Caralis told me in an interview.
That’s a noble goal — though I was quick to question if we ever truly loved e-mail. It was a novel form of communication when it first debuted in the 90s, but since then our inboxes have become overloaded, and social networks rose up to fill the need for more useful communication solutions. There’s no doubt that our e-mail experiences need to be fixed, but Cannonball faces stiff competition from apps like Mailbox and solutions like Gmail’s Priority Inbox (which has been a lifesaver for me).
At the very least, Cannonball offers a unique spin on e-mail management. It makes your leisure e-mails easy to browse by focusing on big images, and you can also easily drag and drop messages between the two sections. After using it for several days, I found that I was actually spending more time exploring leisure e-mails than I normally do (that’s the consequence of good design, I suppose).
Cannonball is also aiming to reinvent the e-mail search experience by not letting you type at all. Shocking, I know. Instead, the app highlights some specific search functionality, like finding mail from a specific contact, or finding a message with an attachment. Again, it’s a noble attempt, at simplifying a frustrating aspect of e-mail, but I came across many instances where Cannonball’s no-typing search made it difficult to find a specific message.
Cannonball is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts and has raised $600,000 in seed funding so far. Investors include MIT professor Ed Roberts; Alpha Prime investor Alessandro Piol; Amedeo Giurazza; and Nobel Laureate Robert Merton.