By Eric Auchard
Google Inc. is introducing on Thursday a free Web calendar service for
consumers to schedule events and share them with others, opening a new
level of competition with rivals such as Yahoo Inc. and Microsoft
Google Calendar, available at http://www.google.com/calendar, offers a
variety of features to make using Web calendars as easy as desktop
calendars such as Outlook, allowing users to "drag and drop" events
from one calendar to another.
The new service takes advantage of slick Web programming tricks using
is the calendar's use of "natural language processing" technology
that simplifies how events are entered.
The feature allows users to type simple commands like "leave work
today at 5 p.m." or "drinks Thursday with Elinor" that the system can
interpret and automatically insert into the calendar. Events can be
private, shared with friends, or made public on the Web, Google
Calendar's product manager said.
"Google Calendar takes all the events in my life and keeps them in one
place," Carl Sjogreen said in a phone interview.
"We enable the user to create multiple calendars, share them with
other people and overlay Web calendars back on the user's own
calendar," the Google product manager said.
Users of Google's free e-mail service Gmail may find the Google
Calendar particularly useful. Google's software scours Gmail to
recognize mentions of events and then automatically offers the user to
add the date information to the calendar.
PRESSING OTHERS TO INNOVATE
Details of the long-rumored calendar, complete with screenshots of
features and instruction guides, had leaked out in late February among
Silicon Valley technology enthusiasts.
The calendar poses a direct challenge to Yahoo Calendar, the No. 1 Web
calendar service in the United States, which was introduced in 1998
and has changed little in substance in recent years. But Google said
it plans to "play nice" and allow users to share Google Calendar
events with Yahoo Calendar.
While Sjogreen is careful to say that Google Calendar is not designed
to replace corporate calendars, it could raise expectations among
office workers that its features should be part of corporate
scheduling systems like Microsoft's Outlook or IBM's Lotus Notes.
Sjogreen said Google is working to offer seamless connections to
Microsoft Outlook, the Palm Treo smartphone and to various other
mobile phone calendars in coming months.
The trial version of Google Calendar is being offered in
English. Gmail users will begin being offered the service within the
next week. In coming months, Google will translate the calendar into
multiple languages, Sjogreen said.
The Sunnyvale, California-based rival of Google said in a statement
that the company is working on updates to Yahoo Calendar, which it
plans to release in coming months.
Last year, Yahoo acquired Upcoming.org. (http://upcoming.org/), a
social event calendar that helps users manage events, share them with
friends and family, and post notifications to one's own or to other
(Additional reporting by Tom Nguyen in New York)
Copyright 2006 Reuters Limited.
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