Late last week, Microsoft released a beta version of a Windows Live service I've been waiting on for quite some time, Windows Live Calendar, the company's answer to Google Calendar, Apple iCal, and other standards-based iCal-type calendar solutions. Sadly, this first public release falls short of what I'm looking for in a calendar service, so hopefully we'll see some improvements in the weeks and months ahead that make it as useful as the competition.
Granted, Microsoft has nailed the basics. Window Live Calendar is attractive and fits nicely into the Windows Live look and feel. It supports multiple calendars, as well as Day, Week, Month, and Agenda views, and offers nice-looking printouts. From an integration standpoint, Windows Live Calendar lets you create "Social Events" via Windows Live Events, which is a nice touch. Curiously, you can't access your schedule via the new Windows Live portal, though your inbox, Messenger list, and contacts appear there by default. Perhaps this will be added when the service moves out of beta.
The biggest features Windows Live Calendar lacks is the ability to subscribe to Web-based calendars. Sure, importing is nice, but it's a one-time shot: If something changes in the source calendar, you won't see those changes appear automatically in Windows Live Calendar as you will in other standards-based calendar solutions. Sorry, but that's lame. Even weirder, you can share, or "publish," in iCal-speak, your Windows Live-based calendars with others, and you can do so in HTML, ICS, or XML formats, just as you can in Google Calendar, using resettable private URLs. So they got half of it right.
As it is now, Windows Live Calendar is looking good, but it needs some work. I'm eager to see how it evolves over time.