Contact managers are ripe for a makeover. As such, Technicopia is announcing a tool called Gwabbit today at the DEMO 2009 conference that could take the tedium out of updating your email contacts.

It’s arguable that this has already been done with the automated contact information collected by Gmail. But that only works for collecting the email addresses of people you’ve corresponded with. It does nothing to aggregate phone numbers, addresses and other contacts.

Gwabbit does this for you in an intelligently automated way. When you get an email — regardless of which email client you are using — Gwabbit will produce a pop-up window asking if you’d like to take the contact information in that email and store it in your Microsoft Outlook Address Book database. If you click yes, it will automatically fill out the appropriate fields for everything, including name, phone number, email address, web site and other relevant data.

Now that would be annoying if it pinged you on every email. But it only pings you after it checks your Outlook client for a matching address. If it finds a match, it won’t spring the pop-up on you. If it finds a conflict where the contact info associated with a known name doesn’t match the contact data on file, it will prompt you. I can’t tell you how brilliant and simple this solution is.

It’s the brainchild of Todd Miller, chief executive of Carmel Valley, Calif.-based Gwabbit, which is a combination of the words grab it and rabbit/wabbit (hence, the silly rabbit mascot). Miller had the idea as far back as 2001. He was sick and tired of pasting contacts, field by field, into Outlook. But he was tied up with another startup, WebFeat, which created a federated search engine for research and business purposes.

In 2008, he sold that business to ProQuest, and was stunned to discover that Microsoft still hadn’t automated its tedious contact system. When he looked around, he found solutions like Address Grabber. I’ve used their software and it works fine, but you have to find people’s contact info in your emails and highlight it yourself. Then you click on the Address Grabber application and it will automatically paste the data into the right fields in Outlook. The problem is that you still have to do each email, one by one, without any intelligent, automated help.

The Xobni email manager has a similar solution that grabs phone numbers, but for some reason it doesn’t grab the rest of the contact data and store it. So Miller saw his opportunity and thought, “If they don’t fix this, I will.”

He funded the project with his own money, and today, the company is releasing the first version of Gwabbit at the DEMOspring conference in Palm Springs.

The software costs $19.95 and works only with Microsoft Outlook for now (it supports all recent versions, including Outlook 2007, 2003, 2002, 2000 and Windows Vista, Windows XP, and Windows 2000. It does not support the Mac). While it would be nice if it supported more software, Miller notes that there are about a half billion Outlook users out there. Once the data is in Outlook, it can be transferred easily to a Blackberry, iPhone, comma-delimited databases and spreadsheets, as well as the full spectrum of standalone customer relationship management (CRM) systems.

The simplicity of the solution will make it appealing. The company was able to create the software with a virtual team of 10 employees and contractors.

[Update: On stage, Miller was funny. He showed that it took a minute and 22 seconds to paste a contact into each field of Microsoft Outlook, while it took less than 5 seconds to do it with Gwabbit. He said that can save companies a lot of lost productivity time — 2,500 hours a year for a typical big company.]

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