Several news sources are reporting today a service called Microsoft Office Outlook Live (MOOL for short) will shortly be available in beta. Microsoft briefly posted a slick flash demo to their own site as well, which has since been taken down.
Let’s start with what MOOL is not. Unfortunately it’s really not a replacement for the late Microsoft Office Internet Free/Busy Service – which would have the unfortunate acronym of “MOIFBS”. That service, decommissioned October 15th of this year, allowed you to make your Outlook calendar’s free/busy information available for searching on a public Microsoft server at no charge.
What MOOL does do is to very neatly integrate MSN Mail and HotMail accounts into the Outlook client and keep mail, contacts, calendar and tasks synchronized between the server and local storage. MOOL is expected to be available to any Outlook user on a subscription basis, as opposed to the former MSN Outlook Connector which was only offered as part of the MSN premium package.
While this integration is neat, in my mind it’s not seamless – in fact, it’s schizophrenic. You see, MOOL wants to treat your information on MSN or HotMail as if it were a completely separate personality or alter ego. You open your MSN calendar in separate window right next to your Outlook calendar. I understand that to some folks, separation of business and personal calendar, tasks, and email is as sacred as separation of church and state – I’m just not one of those people. I would find synchronization (preferably selective synchronization) between the public and private stores much more appealing.
I’m disappointed that it appears that MOOL can’t do for me what the old Free/Busy Service did – support inter-organizational calendaring and sharing of calendar data with friends and family. I suppose I could sign them all up for HotMail accounts of course, but then there’s still the schizophrenia issue to deal with. At one time, Yahoo! and AOL offered synchronization – albeit not selective – but a quick review of their mail offerings makes no mention of that capability as of today.
Isn’t this issue of inter-organizational and public/private scheduling one that we’re long overdue to have solved by now?