Microsoft remains odd man out on calendar interoperability

I’ve heard it said by various knowledgeable people that if Google supported CalDAV in their calendar tomorrow, you’d very quickly see a response from Microsoft.
Written by Dana Gardner, Contributor

Read a transcript of the podcast. 

The iCalendar interoperability standard has brought productivity and publish-and-subscribe ease to only a portion of those wishing to share their calendars broadly. Now a new emerging standard, CalDAV, can make cross-client calendar interoperability an even greater benefit.

Apple, (maybe IBM), and others are on board. Google and Microsoft are hold-outs.

But calendar interoperability guru Scott Mace, editor of Calendar Swamp, thinks that if Google adopts CalDAV it will force Microsoft's hand to bring standards-based calendaring to the Microsoft Outlook and Exchange products, as well as its Live online offerings.

Mace and I conducted a 30-minute podcast on the current issues of calendar interoperability. The sound quality is not up to my usual par (no more cell phones, Scott!), but the meaning is clear: There are tremendous forces of productivity and commerce being held back by calendar walled gardens. Here are some excerpts from the discussion:

I mean, iCal on the Mac is just a truly wonderful solution. The problem is, iCalendar hasn’t been openly adopted. I think that we also don’t have the kind of phenomenon in calendaring that we did with Jabber [and instant messaging]. A lot of people are wondering just how long it really is going to take, because it's already been several years. I’m still waiting for something to come out that’s as viral as Jabber and that just completely starts to spread. You can find Jabber on all sorts of devices. That’s still not the case with any open source or open standards type of calendar.

I also would like to throw a rock at the mobile phone people, who really have been behind the curve here. If you manage to get any data out of your mobile phone calendar, its probably going to be in vCal, which is essentially an extinct format at this point. You may be able to pull it into something else but it’s really the lowest common possible denominator of calendar inter-op. ...

Microsoft is not as focused anymore on following Apple’s lead on every little thing. I  think you know this. The participant that needs to embrace some of these standards more fully is Google. I’ve heard it said by various knowledgeable people that if Google supported CalDAV in their calendar tomorrow, you’d very quickly see a response from Microsoft -- at least a commitment or a statement of direction -- because they’re simply so much more competitive with Google on the whole Office suite.
I believe that it probably would be less challenging for someone like Google to support CalDAV than for Microsoft, just because they don’t have all that legacy to pull behind them. But so far, Google has not committed to supporting CalDAV. I recently for the first time met Carl Sjogreen who runs Google Calendar and I asked him if they were going to join CalConnect and support CalDAV, and he was noncommittal. So, they have a lot of different things on their plate and won't get around to all of them, but I think that would be the ultimate leverage on Microsoft -- for Google to embrace it. ...

I went to OSCON this summer and it wasn’t clear to me whether Eclipse was going to embrace within some their own projects any of the calendaring standards, or whether perhaps there would be some further effort at Eclipse. I think maybe there is interest there, and the Eclipse folks are watching this, but right now I haven’t heard vis-à-vis RCP anything about calendar support per se ... if people don’t go whole-hog for standard support, what they will sometimes do is create a plug-in. I don’t know if that exists yet, but I could speculate that there could be an Eclipse plug-in that supports the Google Calendar API. This wouldn’t be the hardest thing in the world to build, and you are seeing a lot of effort and lot of activity around standards like the Google Calendar API, which is it’s own de-facto standard. It reaches out into lots of different communities: the Java community, the .NET community. ...

Let's look toward the opportunity for doing commerce and new business activities through this calendar interoperability function. I am thinking about what Skype, as a division of eBay, has been doing with the equivalent of Yellow Pages and click-to-talk when it comes to ecommerce, or mobile commerce, or looking for new retail types of commerce.
It certainly seems to me that having a calendar function is an important element within this move toward automated commerce -- one that joins the element of the temporal, of the time and space, to sort of a virtual commerce activity online. And it would seem to me that people like Amazon, eBay and Yahoo!, among others, would be significantly advantaged in a progression toward this vision, if there was this level of calendar interoperability. Therefore, they should be somewhat of an impetus or force to make this happen sooner. Why is it that folks like Yahoo!, Apple, Amazon, and eBay are not moving the big players like the Googles and Microsoft on calendar interoperability?
Yahoo did make a move. They bought Upcoming.org, which does provide this sort of public-facing calendar service that you are talking about. And there is a player, which has not been acquired yet, and as far as I know is not for sale. It is EVDB, which provides the Eventful service.
I had a nice chat this summer with Brian Dear, who runs that. They’ve cracked the code for TicketMaster, so all the TicketMaster events have been exposed as calendar objects within the Eventful Service. I think that’s the beginning of something that can be much, much bigger. I totally agree that some of the players involved haven’t really stepped up to the bar. I can see Amazon doing lots of interesting things with calendar information, but so far I don’t see any movement there. eBay -- I have no real idea what their consciousness level is about calendaring, but Yahoo certainly gets it. I think eventually, probably somebody is going to snap up EVDB and then that will probably represent some of the cutting-edge on this.

Listen to the podcast, or read the full transcript for more on the need to modernize the calendar function.

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