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The Internet fridge is back

Skip the hardware and grab the Cozi Software/Web app.

Whirlpool's new fridgiputer.

The Internet fridge I saw at CES doesn't do what I want it to do. It does not know when I am running out of milk. It does not sniff out the moldy cheese hiding behind the mustard to tell me it's time to throw it out. What the Internet fridge does is this: It has a mounting bracket and a power port on its front so you can install fridge-centric devices.

Stay with me here.

Whirlpool makes the refrigerator in question. I really don't expect you're going to buy one. Another company, Data Evolution, makes a module that snaps onto the bracket and that holds its slim convertible tablet notebook ($800, as I recall). Since Whirlpool isn't going to sell a whole lot of fridges with docks, you're probably not going to buy one of those PCs, either. So where does that leave the software, Cozi, that was running on the CES demo?

Cozi is worth looking at. Sure, you can run it on your fridgetop if you have one, but even without one, it's a good Web-based application for families. Cozi is a simplified group calendar. It lets you schedule things for yourself and see other family schedules, and block time for group activities. As a corporate slave, I like Cozi because the installed version syncs with my Outlook calendar, and the sync is under my control. I can have Cozi read only the appointments that keep me away from home in the evenings; my wife doesn't see the family calendar crowded with my meetings during work hours.

If you don't need the sync you can use the Web-based version of Cozi, which, CEO Robbie Cape told me, is where Cozi is investing most of its development resources.

Cozi is also a super-simple hub from which you can send text messages to family members' mobile phones.

On the downside, it doesn't sync with other calendars real people might be using, such as Google, Yahoo, or iCal.

If you are looking for a good way to keep a simple family schedule online, I recommend Cozi. But put it on an ordinary cheap laptop that you stick in the kitchen; the PC-on-a-fridge thing is silly.

Robbie Cape shows the Whirlpool-branded Cozi app running on an ordinary tablet. Rafe Needleman / CNET