Google, almost there, but not quite

One pet peeve that I have with Google is their seeming inability to actually finish stuff.

Maybe it’s the nature of the Internet or a web 2.0 thing, but it seems that so few of Google’s wonderful offerings develop to the point where you can finally commit to using them and get rid of other paradigms.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Google and what they’ve done for Search and email. Their Gmail product is the best on or offline interface that I’ve yet encountered, and I was a die-hard Outlook user before that. (MR/2 before that, Lotus Notes at work).

The problem is, I use a PDA when I’m away from home. An iPAQ 3955 ig you’re interested. And the best PIM for syncing this device is Outlook. So my calendaring is in Outlook, my tasks are in Outlook and my Contacts are all in Outlook.

I don’t know what world most of the wireless PDA aficionados live in today, but it isn’t mine. I do not have Wi-Fi access most places that I go and I haven’t found a PDA-based calendar that can hold a candle to “Pocket Informant” on my iPAQ (well, maybe DateBK4 but that was in the heyday of Palm devices..).
I also use a Blackberry since I support these devices at work, their calendaring is staid and reliable but not very good for planning.

Google has a great contacts scheme in Gmail. Why can I not sync them with Outlook? Heck, Google owns ORKUT, why can’t they sync with each other and THEN with Outlook?

I also am enamored of Google’s calendaring app, but I have no way of getting the information from it to my iPAQ. Again, Google has created a kick-ass interface and then does not provide sufficient functionality to allow me to take advantage of it. It has to sync with Outlook in order for my iPAQ to have it available for me. It’s been out there for over a year now (nearly 2??) and can do some spiffy things, but still cannot do something as basic as sync with Outlook.

I just tried using “Remote Calendars” and “Companionlink” over the weekend to see if either was up to the task. Never mind that Google is in perpetual Beta so neither of these offerings are able to guarantee that they will continue to work flawlessly as Google’s products are tweaked. At least they are trying to bridge the gap.
“Remote Calendars” simply doesn’t work on my system – I have the feeling it’s either a conflict with GDS (ironic) or an old plug-in called lookout that I used to use with Outlook. And the “Companionlink” offering, which installed and worked right out of the box (so to speak) started duplicating some (but not all) calendar entries with each sync. I really didn’t need to be walking around with 20 reminders of an impending doctor’s appointment waiting for me next month so, after trialing to satisfy myself of the current state of the situation, I uninstalled it and will check it out again in another quarter or so.

The same can be said for Google’s Docs and Spreadsheets app. I keep a list of movies that I want to see on a little excel spreadsheet on my iPAQ. I like to update it from a real keyboard if I’m at home and so I use Excel. I would be just as happy to use the Google offering, except the only way to see the spreadsheet is to access the web, which I’m not doing in my local Blockbuster. The same applies for my weight and balance spreadsheets for flying, my groceries-needed spreadsheet and a half dozen other little lists that spreadsheets are useful for. Again, the ability to sync the files out of Google is needed.

Perhaps I’m falling behind the times and I need to shell out for some kind of unlimited data plan and a WinCE-based phone. But the offerings out there seem to me to be prohibitively expensive. I do play somewhat with these services from my Blackberry as such access is included with the corporate plan that we use but most small-screen access of the web seems to me to be lacking. It’s not a very rich experience and it is so very, very slow. My plan is EVDO for those who know what that is, so it’s pretty much as fast as you can get on a Verizon wireless device.

So, as usual, my desires are about a decade ahead of what is being offered. I can certainly keep doing what I’m doing now, it’s worked for the past few years, I’m sure it will work for a few more. But I can’t help but wonder if I’m either too eager, too small a demographic for anybody to care about, or simply looking in the wrong direction for progress as these (to me) obvious gaps in application offerings hang out there well beyond the point where I’m willing to wait to use the associated products.

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