December 6, 2005 5:11 PM PST

Tech executives: Time is of the essence

PALO ALTO, Calif.--Busy? A slew of technologists want to help you manage your time, by overhauling the wall calendar.

That's the impression here at When 2.0, a one-day conference where executives from Microsoft, Yahoo, IBM and Google, as well as a cadre of upstarts, have been discussing what could be the next, albeit somewhat surprising, killer app: calendaring.

In other words, the confab's list of priorities includes helping you remember your child's soccer match along with the five scheduled meetings you're trying to make.

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Video: Microsoft CTO Ray Ozzie
When 2.0 conference at Stanford

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Video: Start-up finds what's coming
Events and Venues Database helps users discover events

"Time management is undergoing a major shift from a paper-based world to an electronic one--not unlike (the transition to) e-mail over the last 12 years," Hans Bjordahl, program manager for Microsoft Outlook, said during an early panel, calling himself the company's "calendar guy."

"There's a huge opportunity to be part of that shift," Bjordahl said.

To be sure, digital calendars have existed for years. In the late 1990s, Microsoft Outlook introduced the basic calendar that exists today in the popular Windows e-mail program; and Yahoo runs a sophisticated online service on its network. But admittedly, Microsoft and other providers have not made vast improvements to digital calendars, instead focusing in recent years on bolstering e-mail, the No. 1 application on the Net.

But by Bjordahl's and others' accounts, that's changing. And innovation is bubbling up from the major portals and software companies to prove it. For example, Microsoft plans a major calendar upgrade for its Outlook 12 release in 2006; Yahoo bought event-aggregation site Upcoming.org last month; and Google is expected to introduce an online calendar sometime soon. IBM's Almaden Research Lab is also developing a sophisticated contact-event-networking program.

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Video: Time for calendar challenger?
Can open-source software compete with major commercial calendar products? OSA Foundation President Mitchell Kapor
thinks so.

Meanwhile, the portals have competition, if not potential acquisition targets, in the form of emerging upstarts.

What's the opportunity, given that typical offices have a networked calendar that lets employees share schedules, plan group events and schedule reminders? Executives say there are several--along with challenges such as forming standard protocols.

Consumers, for example, don't yet have an efficient means of sharing and syncing a family calendar with a work calendar, or of maintaining privacy controls over who sees what event. Transporting information from one calendar to a mobile phone or PDA, or even another PC, can also be difficult. Graphical interfaces can be restrictive on a phone, for instance.

Another frontier will be to add wiki functionality to services for organizing group events, Yahoo executive Raymie Stata said during one panel discussion.

Improving work productivity and collaboration will also be paramount. Microsoft's Pavel Curtis, for example, founder of PlaceWare, a group-conferencing software company acquired by the giant about three years ago, discussed his work on new productivity tools. The products are intended to let a group of co-workers more easily coordinate edits on Word documents, presentations or project schedules.

12 comments

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Uh, we have PDAs
In essence, there's nothing truly new about this technology. We've had PDAs and PIM software for over a decade now. This "new" technology is just about making these existing devices and software smarter and more connected.
Posted by Bong Dizon (17 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Excel and Paper work for me
I use a small Excel macro I bought on a website and allows me to post Paper calendars on the office wall that everybody understands.

Sometime, paper is still your best friend, even if create it on a PC.

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.officehelp.biz/officehelp/viewcontents.asp?cl=Macro&#38;id=00002&#38;ent=Cal" target="_newWindow">http://www.officehelp.biz/officehelp/viewcontents.asp?cl=Macro&#38;id=00002&#38;ent=Cal</a>
Posted by Acpinho1 (1 comment )
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The Future is now
Network solutions hosts my site and they give you 50 email addresses with the package, which also includes a mini office product... which ALSO includes a shareable calendar.

I uploaded my calendar from outlook at home to my calendar on the web and now my entire family can update it.

I imagine I could download it to work, but I don't want my personal stuff in my work calendar.
Posted by aaroberts (82 comments )
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They all want to "own" your calendar
As Ray Ozzie pointed out in his SSE blog "announcement" the problem with most of the existing calendar solutions is that they all want to "own" the calendar. Meaning, they all want to import events from other calendars, but they don't want to export or synch with other calendars. This approach forces the user to have yet another calendar, when what they really want is to have their existing calendars synch with each other, and with selected friends and colleagues. This is the problem SSE was designed to fix.

There are some cool start-ups working on the calendar problem including; Timebridge, Trumba, Zvents, Kalookoo, and others. I did a review of the calendar problem and the various approaches of these and other start-ups in my blog today. You can see the whole story at <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://dondodge.typepad.com/the_next_big_thing/2005/12/time_for_calend.html" target="_newWindow">http://dondodge.typepad.com/the_next_big_thing/2005/12/time_for_calend.html</a>
Posted by Don_Dodge (64 comments )
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More than that
They want to own your time. The "future" described in this article seems silly. Online sharable &#38; open standard calendar programs will not solve any problems that my Day Planner or PDA doesn't already address. If this is the direction that Ray Ozzie and other visionaries are thinging, then the set of problems that IT can solve is getting thin indeed.
Posted by (45 comments )
Link Flag
This Killer App almost exists
Where many of the attempts to create a truly useful application fail is that once an event is entered into a calendar, it is a static piece of information. If the details change i.e. time, date or location - there is no way to automatically alert the people with that event in the calendar of the change.

Infuzer (www.infuzer.com) has addressed this issue with a pretty unique solution that is also cross-platform compatible. They keep a central store of the most up to date information on the events and regularly sync the entries to make sure that any changes are sent to everyone with that event in their calendar. They also have devised a way to enter events remotely to other people's Outlook, Palm or Lotus calendars once an approval between calendar users has been established.

These guys are on the cusp of something big and with their win for the NBC Olympics website, they are set to become a much more ballyhooed outfit.
Posted by jjocke (1 comment )
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We shouldn't have to go online...
I would love to see an app that opens directly to my daily schedule as soon as my computer starts up, with page tabs for maybe the next 7 days and tabs for all months...it shouldn't be necessary for me to go to a google/yahoo/msn etc. site, sign in, and then get to my calendar.
Posted by mcnevich (9 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Duh
Sounds like M/S Outlook to me.
Posted by cndkc (3 comments )
Link Flag
History re-written
Stefanie Olsen seems to ignore that it was Louts who really introduced an useful electronic calendar and organizer in the pc.
Posted by czorrilla (60 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Just create an XML standard like RSS did for blogs and news.
Create a calendar schema or event tag.

While we're at it, why doesn't the W3C standardize an ADDRESS format and a PHONE format. When web programmers tag data as address or phone number, the browser can use it to add it to contacts or dial it right out of the document.

Why has this not become as ubiquitous as the hyperlink yet?
Posted by jamie.p.walsh (288 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Just?
WRT to phones, it isn't that ubiquitous yet because only expensive (mobile) phones could use it. Maybe there is a market for bluetooth enabled desk/house phones that can interact with you PC/PDA to make it happen.
Posted by cndkc (3 comments )
Link Flag
go tech!
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.analogstereo.com/cadillac_srx_owners_manual.htm" target="_newWindow">http://www.analogstereo.com/cadillac_srx_owners_manual.htm</a>
Posted by 208774626618253979477959487856 (176 comments )
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