We've covered some solutions to this problem before, but we had not seen a truly integrated offering that allowed you to sync up a work calendar in desktop software with an onlne calendar without need of a third-party app of some sort...that is, until yesterday. It seems that Microsoft has finally given the people what they want and have provided a calendar sync tool that actually makes all of Microsoft's calendaring programs work together.For anyone who uses multiple calendars, you know that one of the big issues that's being addressed by numerous applications is getting your calendars to sync up with each other.
Outlook Connector Beta
The new tool providing this functionality is the latest version of the Outlook Connector public beta. This downloadable software works to sync Outlook's calendar with Windows Live Hotmail's Calendar with the Windows Live Calendar Beta. Such an integrated offering is a surprise considering that Microsoft is a company that's sometimes known for launching what are perceived as too-similar, parallel solutions (think FolderShare, SyncToy, SkyDrive, Mesh).
The previous version of this connector allowed you to sync email and contacts data between Outlook and Hotmail for free, but calendar sync required a subscription service. With this new version, however, calendar sync is now free and it includes the ability to work with Live Calendar beta. And because Live Calendar also supports calendar sharing, those shared calendars will sync back to Outlook, too.
For someone who uses an Outlook calendar at work, keeps a personal calendar in Hotmail, and perhaps has a shared family calendar in Live Calendar, this new sync tool will be incredibly useful. Whether you're online or offline, all your calendars are available from one place: Outlook.
The release of this connector is a great example of Microsoft's firm commitment to their S+S (Software + Services) architecture. They intend for software to be the hub for your activities with web services available as an additional layer. S+S combines the power of the internet with the richness that is still, as of today, found mostly in desktop software (although web software is quickly closing that gap). This is an entirely different mindset than what Google and other web companies are offering - in fact, it's just the opposite. Google Calendar, for example, will be implementing Google Gears which is software that makes a web app available offline and then syncs your changes when you connect to the internet again. The battle between these two similar, but opposing, methodologies will play out over the coming months. The ReadWriteWeb audience of early adopters and web developers tends to think the winner will be web apps in the end, but the truth of the matter is that it's still too early in the game for either side to declare victory just yet.
Of course, the missing piece to the Microsoft solution is the fact that Outlook (or any) desktop software isn't necessarily available on every PC that you own. However, considering their new Live Mesh platform isn't designed to just handle file sync, but is designed to handle application sync too, it's easy to see what direction they're headed. Microsoft is still betting on software - they're just using the web as a tool which makes everything work together more seamlessly than it did before .
Do you think S+S is a viable solution for computing's future? Or do you think today's web apps should be focused on implementing offline sync? Or can these two opposing agendas co-exist? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.