Is Google Challenging Outlook With New Calendar App?

Google has introduced a beta version of its latest productivity tool — an online calendar that allows users to easily update and share their schedules with friends and family.

It can be integrated into Gmail, for instance, allowing someone to create a calendar notation directly from a message.

Another user-friendly feature is the integration with its mapping function. An event that has an address listed will also automatically link to a map to the location. Eventually, users will be able to send out invitations from event listings in the calendar.

Follow the Leader

Google is late to the game with this feature — Yahoo, for instance, has offered a free calendar for some time. Then there is a Microsoft’s Outlook, which also links to e-mail. Though not a free service, it’s quite ubiquitous.

The electronic invitation integration feature was first popularized by the company, according to Matt Booth, vice president of interactive local media at the Kelsey Group.

Late though it may be, Google can now be expected to set the pace for future development of online calendars — partly because this is Google we are talking about, but mainly because it has provided the code base to the development community as it did with its mapping feature.

“What Google is doing is creating a base product and allowing others to build interesting functionality into it and on top of it,” Booth told TechNewsWorld.

“As more people use it and build more functionality into it, I believe Google will then start to bring pieces of it back in-house,” he predicted.

Guessing at Google’s Strategy

As usual, Google is revealing little of its long-term vision for this feature or how it might mesh with other product road maps. It remains to be seen, for instance, whether Google will link it to technology acquired last month with the purchase of Upstartle, a provider of a Web-based word processing system called Writely.

With Outlook, Microsoft is the dominant calendar system provider, Booth said. “It certainly does seem as though Google is going after those core pieces of functionality.”

Yet to be determined is whether Google will eventually use the calendar as an advertising vehicle, though the company has said it will not, according to Booth. “We will see if they do so down the road.”

More Mashups

Much depends on how far developers push the application. There are a number of possibilities, Booth noted, such as a calendar-map application built around local sporting events.

“I think we will see new products like that almost immediately,” he ventured. Also, other providers, such as Yahoo, are bound to improve their products.

“Things are going to get interesting in this space,” said Booth.

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