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    Calgoo wants a date with your desktop calendar

    by  Alan Zisman (c) 2008 First published in Business in Vancouver October 21-27, 2008; issue 991

    High Tech Office column

    Last September (BIV 934 to be exact), I wrote about local software developers Calgoo Software (a.k.a. Time Search, Inc.). Its same-named product offered users a desktop calendar, but before you roll your eyes, thinking that you’ve already got one, with Outlook, or iCal, or Google Calendar or whatever, Calgoo lets users synchronize multiple calendars across multiple computers. Work and home, Windows and Mac (and Linux), online and offline. Members of a workgroup could co-ordinate schedules.

    Like many software companies looking to build market share, there was a usable free version along with a paid version offering added capabilities.

    In July, the Yaletown-based company sent out a press release: effective immediately, all its products would be available free. Users who had bought a copy of the software would receive e-mail support not available to freeloaders.

    Free would seem to be the best price of all, but Calgoo’s announcement left me with a question. In dropping the price to zero, what was the business model? Google offers a host of free products, but gets revenue from ads. Microsoft uses free software to lock users into the Windows ecosystem. Many open-source projects can provide useful free software, because they’re built by developers co-operating in their spare time.

    According to Calgoo CEO Andrzej Kowalski, the company justified the move to free to drive up user numbers. It seems to have worked. Traffic on its servers increased fivefold after the announcement.

    But moving the product line to free software is just the first step in the company’s evolution. Rather than focus on stand-alone calendars, the company is using the expertise it developed in synchronizing a wide range of desktop calendars to roll out what Kowalski calls the first in-calendar marketing service.

    For an example of what that means, Kowalski points to Calgoo client, Maple Ridge Golf Course’s booking service, Using Calgoo software, offers what it calls golf course calendar feeds that give users the ability to check availability and book time at local golf courses from within the calendaring software they already use. In most cases, users don’t need to install additional software. Instead, users – who have to opt in; no spam here – set their Outlook, iCal, Google or other calendar to subscribe to the service, viewing availability at the course of their choice when they want to book.

    Besides helping users to book 18 holes, in-calendar marketing is a useful idea. Calendar entries would become, in effect, the best kind of ads – targeted directly, in a time-sensitive way at potential-customers who have asked to receive them. I know I would be happy to be able to view in my calendar announcements from a number of businesses: information on new products, sales, events and more – as long as I had the ability to turn them off any time I was no longer interested in receiving them.

    Kowalski notes that organizations using Calgoo’s service will have access to real-time analytics. They’ll be able to see how many people are subscribing to their calendars and see how many click-throughs they’ve received as a result of any calendar event.

    Using calendars as marketing tools is not new. I’m sure we’ve all received free calendars from insurance brokers, car dealers and other local businesses. Calgoo’s service takes this several steps further – making it possible for businesses to use calendars to provide ongoing updates of the information they pass on to potential customers, not just once a year. •

Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan
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