Calendars, the new frontier

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Lots of activity in the shared calendar space which has blossomed most recently with the impending launch of 30 Boxes which, by all accounts, is beautiful and fantastic. I’m sorry I missed the show & tell up in San Francisco (other plans) but I’m signed up for the beta and am looking forward to taking it for a test drive.

There’s been a lot of good work around shared calendar to build upon. The first example that really opened my eyes was Apple’s work on iCal as part of their .mac online suite which is now in version 6. Tim Berners-Lee used it as a way to describe the future of the web and showed how he could share events with his wife, friends, and secretary and was looking forward to the day when he could give different levels of read/write access to different types of events. In his example, he should be able to grant temporary edit rights to his travel agent for his flight details while his secretary could update his work week, while only his wife could edit his weekends.

More recent work has been done been done (with all the requisite AJAX stuff) by companies such as Kiko and Spongecell. I just checked in with Brian Dear’s old evdb URL and see that it redirects to a service called Eventful. Someone pointed out that calendar.google.com resolves so you can expect that something will come out of there soon. Yahoo has had a nice calendar sharing service (Yahoo ID required) but it’s long overdue for an update which is on the way and is going to involve more than just rounding out the corners! Finally, upcoming.org is now under the Y! umbrella so you can be sure there will be some integration and innovation around event management. I recently saw a hack using the APIs which integrate maps and bluetooth that is very clever.

Rounding out the big three, Microsoft recently posted a peak at Vista’s Calendar app (pictures above from Furrygoat). Their writeup is light on detail but there is a publish and subscribe mechanism and it shares the iCalendar format so there will be some interoperability with Apple’s iCal.

I’ve asked this in the past and will ask it again. Do you think the open standards of RSS and iCalendar will replace the closed system of Microsoft Exchange? Will the benefits of lightweight ubiquity outweigh the profit motive of vendor lock-in? Can an entrenched leader such as Microsoft risk taking this leap and how will they sell this opportuntiy to their shareholders?

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