Found in a number of products such as Lotus Notes and On Technology's Meeting Maker, what are commonly called "calendaring" features allow users to schedule individual and group appointments and to post them on company networks. But there's no interoperability standard that allows data from different calendaring applications to work easily with each other over the Internet, thus limiting the ability of corporate intranets to replace other kinds of local networks completely.
Netscape and other key calendaring vendors hope to come up with just such a standard and to submit it to the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), a Net standards body. Other vendors attending today's meeting at Netscape headquarters include FTP Software, Hewlett-Packard, Lotus Development, On Technology, Novell, NetManage, Now Software, and Software.com. But as the leading browser vendor, Netscape's support for any such standard is critical.
Instead of a new standard, however, the summit meeting may turn out an endorsement of one of a number of existing protocols already submitted to the IETF by calendaring vendors. A leading candidate is Lotus's Internet Calendaring Access Protocol (ICAP), announced in April at the PC Expo trade show in New York, which will allow clients such as a Web browser to obtain, manipulate, and store calendar information on either a standalone calendar server or a messaging server with calendaring capabilities. Two other possibilities are On Technology's Simple Scheduling Transfer Protocol and Versit's vCalendar specification.
Regardless of which specification is adopted, adding calendaring capabilities to the Net will bring intranets a step closer to matching the broader capabilities of groupware solutions such as Notes. But not everyone thinks it's a critical checklist item for corporations evaluating intranets.
One analyst who has polled systems managers says that threaded discussions, security, and disconnected information access are all much more critical.
Still, it's a start, said David Coleman, managing director of consulting firm Collaborative Strategies. And it will be a challenge for Internet software vendors to establish consensus on a standard in an arena without clear market leaders, he said. "[Calendaring] is not like word processing, where you have a clear leader," Coleman said. "There's tons of them."