Technology

Google Pins Hopes on Calendar


Will a new online day planner help the Internet giant score a much-needed success outside Web search?

For all of the hoopla surrounding Google's products, the company sure has struggled to generate smash hits outside of Web search. Sure, Google's maps, with their eye-catching satellite imagery, have been a scorching success. But many other ventures, from shopping site Froogle to social networking hub Orkut to Google Talk instant-messaging client, have generated little enthusiasm.

The company hopes to better the record on Apr. 13 when it launches Google Calendar -- a free, Internet-based calendar that helps users keep track of important dates, events, and information.

Early indications are promising. Several analysts who have tried the product believe Google (GOOG) may be on to something. Google Calendar differs from most other online calendar services because it lets users publish and share the information, as well as overlay events from other calendars.

SYNCED SCHEDULES.

Google Calendar users, for example, could sync their own calendars with those of a spouse and children to more efficiently plan a summer vacation. "Our goal is to reduce the burden of running a calendar," says Google Product Manager Carl Sjogreen.

That may be just the start. Google's goal is to make this not just an end product, but rather a platform for organizing events and sharing information, analysts say. "Google has rethought the entire role of a calendar," says Forrester Research analyst Charlene Li. "It recognizes you have several calendars to manage and that you have to interact between them."

Calendar could thrust Google into other new areas, including territory occupied by the likes of Evite, owned by Barry Diller's IAC/InterActiveCorp (IACI). Google Calendar lets users plan events, including sending out invitations and reminders, keeping track of RSVPs, and interacting with potential guests.

ADS FOR EVENTS.

Although Google has not announced how it plans to make money from the calendar offering, event planning could provide prime real estate for advertisers. A local costume store could advertise in conjunction with an invitation for a Halloween party, for instance. "Events are highly monetizable," says Li.

Google will initially integrate its beta calendar product with its two-year-old e-mail service, Gmail (see BW Online, 10/26/05, "Gmail: Just a Bit Too Quirky"). The fledgling e-mail service could use the shot in the arm that may accompany added features. Despite a sleek interface and free, jumbo-size accounts, analysts estimate that Gmail has attracted about 10 million users. Not bad, but it's less than 10% of the amount of e-mail users at Yahoo or Microsoft's Hotmail, say the analysts.

Elgin is a correspondent in BusinessWeek's Silicon Valley bureau .

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