Hallelujah. Someone has finally noticed what we all struggle with managing our time and sharing our time management with others. Seems minor? All right then, how can you keep track of appointments and everything else while letting others know what they need to know about your availability--but letting them know only what you want them to know--while leaving time to actually do your work? Put a little jokingly, but I'm serious.
If you've ever had to schedule or change a group meeting--let alone juggle your schedule with your spouse's for a midafternoon cup of coffee--you know what I'm talking about. (The situation is so desperate in my family, that a few months ago, we discussed hanging an Internet-connected tablet PC on our kitchen wall with a Yahoo calendar set as its home page. We would've done it, too, if the price were a tenth as much.)
It seems that Microsoft, in line with its plans to help business collaboration in general, and a host of other upstarts (or start-ups, at least) are going to try to develop products that help us better manage our time. Another benefit, promised from tech icon Mitch Kapor, will be calendars that are smart enough to know that when we fly to another time zone, we want our appointments to shift appropriately as well. Rafe and I, and many others, I'm sure, have missed meetings because of the current unhelpful (and really unintelligent) time-shift feature in Outlook.
Placeware, another company in the Gates's empire that was at the When 2.0 conference where all this was announced, is working on products "intended to let a group of coworkers more easily coordinate edits on Word documents, presentations, or project schedules."
Cross your fingers and hope.