Now Synching: Google Calendar, Microsoft Outlook

For users who can't break free of Outlook, Google offers a tool that synchs appointments between Google Calendar and Outlook Calendar.

In December, eWEEK polled customers and analysts about what features they wanted to see in Google Apps, the search vendor's popular collaboration software suite. One of those features included the ability for Google Calendar to work with other calendaring applications in the market.

Google March 5 answered the bell, releasing Google Calendar Synch, which synchronizes Google Calendar with rival Microsoft's Outlook calendar.

By downloading this software, users who add an event in their Microsoft Outlook calendar will know that it will automatically sync to Google Calendar and be accessible at any time, whether they're using a browser or a mobile phone.

Conversely, users who post an event with a future pop-up reminder in Google Calendar will automatically see that reminder in their Outlook calendar on their computers. Essentially, users can use either Google Calendar or Microsoft Outlook calendar to view their complete, updated schedules.

Google Apps Associate Product Manager Matt Kulick explained the rationale for the feature in this blog post March 5, noting, "People aren't always connected to the Internet, and they may prefer to use different applications (like Microsoft Outlook calendar) at their home or office. One of the biggest issues we hear from users is how hard it is to keep all of their calendars up to date."

To ensure that other contacts only see the calendar information users want them to see, users can set the default privacy level in Google Calendar to "private" so that events synced from Microsoft Outlook calendar are marked private. This will allow only users and contacts that they've granted permission to view event details to see them on Google Calendar.

In addition, users can only sync in one direction if they prefer to keep their private data only in Microsoft Outlook calendar, or only in Google Calendar.

Google Calendar Synch may seem minor in the grand scheme of Google Apps, but it is another stepping stone in Google's quest to compete with Microsoft, IBM and others on the collaboration software war.

By demonstrating compatibility with Outlook Calendar, the most ubiquitous calendaring application in the world, Google is endearing themselves to Google Apps users who still use Outlook, or those thinking of switching to Google Apps.

Analysts have said 2008 will be an important year for Google to round out its Apps portfolio if the company is to successfully compete in the space.

Outgoing Microsoft Chief Software Architect Bill Gates, in an attempt to chasten a rival in a way that is more customary for CEO Steve Ballmer, said March 3 that Google doesn't understand business needs.