So last week Google introduced Google Calendar, and while it doesn’t quite work with Safari yet (not even the secret shiny “gold compass” nightly builds of Safari) it will in fact work with Firefox and Camino, so that’s nice. It looks great and feature-complete right out of the gate, and thus so long, 30boxes, we hardly knew ye — while I appreciate the clean, Mac-like UI of 30boxes a lot more, the feature set of Google’s Calendar cannot be beat. In fact, I’m ready to declare Google Calendar better than iCal, which for years has been my Gold Standard of calendaring apps. Here’s why:
- Access from everywhere, and ability to edit from everywhere. iCal has the ability to publish your calendars via WebDAV and on the web via .Mac, but you can only edit them when you’re sitting in front of your computer. Google’s Calendars can be edited when you’re home, at work, at your friend’s house, wherever. So long, .Mac!
- Shareable calendars. iCal’s ability to share calendars has always been one-way, read-only, but Google’s calendars can be edited and annotated by anyone you want to give access to. This feature alone is why people run incredibly expensive Microsoft Exchange servers, and Google just gave it to everyone for free.
- Email alerts. iCal’s email alerts only happened when iCal was active — if your machine was asleep or offline, too bad for you! Google’s email alerts happen anytime, and can even be set to send an SMS page to your mobile phone as well.
- Daily Agenda sent to you via email. Every day, Google Calendar can send you an email at 5 AM laying out the events of the rest of your day. This is killer, it’s like Google just hired a personal secretary for everyone on Earth.
- Calendars can be exported to RSS or iCal. I’ve already got my calendars set up as RSS feeds, but I’ve exported them to iCal too, which means they’ll go on my iPod automatically — so if I add an event online, it goes everywhere I need it to go all at once. Once again: so long, .Mac!
So with this move, one third of Google’s increasingly clear “make Microsoft Office irrelevant” strategy is complete. They have already taken everything that is good about Outlook’s capacity to organize email and calendars and transformed it to a superior web application. With the recent Google acquisition of Writely, the next sixth of the puzzle to click in will probably be an online word processor. After that, all that remains is a database (Google Base maybe?, although to be honest, I can’t figure that thing out at all), a spreadsheet, and a PowerPoint-y presentation module — and suddenly Google has provided pretty much all of what most humans need Microsoft Office for, with the added killer-app benefit that all your documents and all your email are online, available, editable, and instantly searchable from any computer. That’s a benefit I could explain in a sentence even to mom and dad.
And once people realize that they don’t actually need Microsoft Office to Get Things Done, they’ll soon realize that they don’t actually need Microsoft Windows either. I had a recent revelation at work about a month ago: as all the apps I use at work are web-based, all I really needed was a copy of Firefox running on anything, and I was good to go. This revelation allowed me to ditch flaky Windows XP on my cruddy Dell work laptop and switch to Ubuntu. The Dell laptop remains cruddy, but I’m much happier with the experience as a whole. So I, for one, welcome our new calendaring overlord. All hail ants, and Google.