Google has launched a new web-based beta calendar service, Google Calendar.
The service lets users add meetings and events using their own words and has been in development for "several months". The service will initially be integrated with Google's Gmail email service, according to Carl Sjogereen, a Google product manager.
Bloggers have been speculating on the move for over a year. Some believe it could inspire a flurry of web calendar development. "I sure as hell hope they do it," wrote Yahoo engineer Jeremy Zawodny in a blog posting February last year. "There's been so little innovation in the world of online calendars these last few years. Perhaps Google getting into the act would finally change that."
Google's Sjogereen was circumspect in discussing the company's plans for Google calendar. He declined to say what, if any, connection the project might have with the OpenOffice.org office productivity suite that Google has backed, but he hinted that Google Calendar could be integrated with things like Google's personalised home pages. "Gmail is the main integration point for now, but you can imagine integration with a number of other Google properties," he said.
Office faces stiff competition
Last October, Google and OpenOffice.org's sponsor Sun Microsystems "agreed to explore opportunities to promote and enhance" various technologies, including OpenOffice.org, which is an open-source alternative to Microsoft Office.
Gmail will take advantage of one of the most interesting features of Google Calendar, its ability to understand language and to quickly create calendar entries. "We do our best to determine whether you're talking about an event that's being added to your calendar," Sjogereen said.
Google Calendar users will be able to create new events directly out of their Gmail messages, or they can also use a feature called QuickAdd in order to add appointments using natural language, typing "lunch with pat noon Friday," to create a new calendar entry, for example.
Once events are created, Google Calendar can send out email invitations to other participants, send event reminders, and change notifications to the Google user.
But setting up a personal calendar is only part of the picture. Google Calendar will allow users to search for and then subscribe to publicly available calendars - the schedule of a local baseball team, for example - and then integrate that information into their own calendars.
Google Calendar, which will support the iCal data exchange standard used by a number of groupware products, will also let users share their calendars with others using the RSS (Really Simple Syndication) syndication technology.