I personally have a few calendars, a MS Outlook one for work related events, an iCal calendar for personal use(syncs with my phone cal), a Yahoo calendar for reminders I want txt msg’d to me, a family calendar to keep my family coordinated.. And the organizations in which I participate each have their own as well…. often just HTML/web based. I’d like to be able to manage just one calendar, and have the information fed into the appropriate application, or in the case of others viewing my calendar, they should be able to see certain events based on simple permission levels and be able to use their calendar application to include an event as well.. Do you see the problem? Event management is one of the most important technical challenges that can be solved but hasn’t to date. Their have been two similar standards which currently exist to date, VCal and iCal. While the two are not completely interchangeable, if you strip the extra tags out of each to a simple single event, most calendar applications can accept the event. MS uses Vcal within Outlook, and Open Source calendaring applications as well as Apples iCal use the other iCal format. Additionally with the introduction of RSS, and RSS news readers becoming more common (ie: myYahoo now allows RSS feeds to be added) this also provide another way to syndicate public events. But what if you want to share events with just family? just friends? just coworkers? or even just a specific person? Today’s technology really doesn’t support unified calendaring without some kind of synchronization software or knowing what the other people use for their calendar application.
Well, good news, M$ is starting to realize this problem and do something about it… Actually, I give credit to Ray Ozzie (founder of Groove Networks collaboration software) for bringing this challenge to Microsoft’s attention. Some people like to think of sports figures as people they would like to meet, or famous politicians, personally… Ray Ozzie is a guy who I deeply respect as a tech savy business leader. He has a good concept for what is important to businesses, and great ideas for solving their challenges through use of technology. Upon graduation from WPI, Groove was one of the top company’s that I really wanted to work for, unfortunately I was unable to use my network of connections to get a foot into the door. And now that they have been swallowed by MS, I’m not as sure about the flexibility of their future.
In short, I’m confident that MS’s new standard as long as it’s spec is kept open can be a step in the right direction for our calendar synchronization and event management woes.