Wednesday, October 17, 2007, 06:05 am PT (09:05 am ET)
Road to Mac OS X Leopard: iCal 3.0
Leopard's iCal 3.0
Even home users that have no need for group calendaring will benefit from the new server-side improvements to iCal. That's because Apple didn't just build its iCal Server to fill out a feature check list. It has also begun using it company wide as its own corporate scheduling software in place of Meeting Maker. That means Apple employees are also now using the iCal client, and the result is that iCal itself has progressed rapidly.
Like other Leopard applications, the new iCal drops its heavy brushed metal interface and now clean, lithe, and professional looking (below). It's also blazingly fast. Gone are the sluggish delays that left previous versions less than practical to actually use. It launches immediately, and new appointments can be created and edited just as quickly.
The new iCal drops the slide out drawer previous versions used to display and edit the details of events. In its place, iCal 3.0 pops up an information bubble (above) when events are double clicked upon that can be used to view or edit the event's properties.
From the new Mail, users can create an event in iCal using Data Detectors. Doing so links the event back to the email with a URL. Open the event in iCal, and a single click pulls up the original email. Events also act like email messages. Drag documents, graphics, or even movies to the event, and they are attached as files.
Invite participants to the event, and your attachments are sent to the meeting recipients. To add attendees, simply click the attendees link and start typing names; iCal immediately looks up contacts from your Address Book for matches, and then offers to send out invitations. Users get a clickable file they can use to accept or decline your invitation, and iCal tracks their responses. It's like Exchange Server without maintaining expensive infrastructure and paying for all those Client Access Licenses.
In a group setting using Leopard Server, iCal gets even more sophisticated. You can look up other users' availability (below), book conference rooms, reserve the use of equipment such as an office projector, even delegate your calendar to an assistant to manage.
Because the new iCal Server is open, it works with a number of other clients on other platforms, too. A broad consortium of industry groups have joined to support and contribute toward CalDAV, including developers from Google, IBM's Lotus, Novell, Oracle, PeopleCube, Sun, Kerio, Mozilla, Yahoo, Zimbra, Symbian, and the OSAF.
Mozilla's Sunbird calendar and even Microsoft's Outlook—with the installation of a third party plugin—can be used with iCal Server. Boeing has also developed a CalDAV connector for Exchange Server. Microsoft itself has been quiet about supporting CalDAV. That may be related to the fear that an open market in calendaring would not help the company maintain its dominance over Windows-bound IT shops.
An Open Agenda
In an interesting turn of events, Kapor—the founder of Lotus who delivered the first personal information manager twenty years ago in Lotus Agenda and who funded the development of Lotus Notes—is once again involved in the development of scheduling. Since 1990, Kapor has become known as a socially active philanthropist, co-founding the Electronic Frontier Foundation, founding the Open Source Applications Foundation, and chairing the Mozilla Foundation.
One of the projects of the OSAF is Chandler (below), a new PIM inspired by the old Lotus Agenda. The free, open source project is designed to help users to manage events, messages, and projects from a central dashboard, schedule and coordinate meetings and events across multiple calendars, and collaborate with other users. Chandler is similarly based upon CalDAV, enabling its server and client to work with Apple's iCal and iCal Server in Leopard.
Lotus Notes, Symphony on Leopard
IBM, meanwhile, is porting Lotus Notes 8 to the Mac for release early next year. In the report Lotus Notes Domino 8 coming to Leopard in '08 last month, MacNN reported that IBM executives "described a 'new cachet' surrounding Macs in business, and said they 'see the growth' already underway on an enterprise level."
"We want to get it right," IBM said, "In fact, the version we're currently running (Lotus Notes 8.x build on a Macbook on Flickr) on a widescreen iMac looks better than the Windows release."
IBM is also completing its own distribution of the OpenOffice productivity suite-with Notes integration—under the name Lotus Symphony. Released in beta with a full version due next year, IBM also promises a Mac version for its enterprise users. The suite is free and offered as tool to compete against Microsoft's Exchange Server and Office integration.
I'd Like to Exchange This
Microsoft is also planning to release its next version of Office for Mac early next year. The existing version of Office for Mac is now four years old—the same age as Office 4.x was back in 1997 when Jobs negotiated for the release of a new Office. Interestingly, Ozzie—the lead developer of the original Lotus Notes—is now the chief software architect at Microsoft, having replaced Bill Gates last year.
Mac users already have access to Apple's iWork 08 suite now, and Leopard with the new iCal is just nine days away. Leopard Server and the new iCal Server are also coming out at the same time. Now that Apple has an interoperable product strategy for office scheduling, things are going to get interesting.
Check out earlier installments from AppleInsider's ongoing Road to Leopard Series: iChat 4.0, Mail 3.0, Time Machine; Spaces, Dock 1.6, Finder 10.5, Dictionary 2.0, and Preview 4.0.
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