With its recently released beta, AirSet joins Trumba (Jeremy Jaech's latest venture) as the next wave of online-calendaring services tackling the unsolved problem of managing multiple schedules in a single place. Hoping to avoid repeating the mistakes of the dot-com generation of now defunct or bought up sites (i.e. PlanetAll, When.com, MyEvents), the new services are beefing up their offerings with contact management; list management; support for multiple file formats; and even Weblinks and blogging.
Having its roots in the mobile space, AirSet takes it a step further with wireless synchronization to mobile phones via a mobile client due out this summer. I recently spoke with AirSet CEO Brian Dougherty about the company’s strategy and future plans.
As founder of Geoworks, a company that developed the system software for the Tandy/Casio Zoomer and HP OmniGo, Dougherty sees a big opportunity for smart phones. "We saw that the mobile data space was about to take off," he said. But at the time the company suffered from "pioneer syndrome" as there was no incentive for handset makers to offer a robust PIM suite if carriers would not pay more for it. Their pitches were falling on deaf ears. But then things turned around when Palm made it possible to synch your calendar and contacts with the desktop, said Dougherty. "That was the key...the next logical evolution was synching with other calendars," he said. AirSet bypassed the carriers with a Web-based service. "We saw the need to get your whole life in one place," said Dougherty.
As for the competition, Dougherty said that the big guns like Yahoo Groups haven’t yet addressed the problems that he is working on. "Yahoo Mail is the best area for managing individual calendars," he said. He respects Trumba for "getting the multi-calendaring problem" but said that their service is not aiming to be a PIM suite, which is AirSet"s goal. Start up EVDB takes a strictly-public approach that lets users search the site’s events and venue database, or create their own events, and then save them to calendars.
As for the future, Dougherty envisions an RSS reader feature that would allow users to set up feeds for a group that may be not as tech-savvy, such as for grandparents in family groups.
It will be a long road ahead, but if AirSet delivers on ease-of-use, extends support to more file formats such as iCal, and users get comfortable with managing their lives through a browser, it will be one of the strongest stabs ever at getting online calendaring "right."