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Google is set to open a new front in its competition with Microsoft’s traditional desktop software on Thursday with the launch of a test version of an online calendar.

The widely-anticipated service extends Google’s reach further into the sort of personal-productivity software that has made Outlook one of the most popular elements in Microsoft’s Office suite desktop software, one of its biggest profit-earners.

It also continues the internet company’s steady transformation from a standalone search engine into a full-service internet portal, rivaling Yahoo.

Carl Sjogreen, product manager for Google Calendar, said the new Google Calendar service fitted the company’s mission to “organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”, since it would make it easier for users to organise and access their personal diary information from any computer.

Google’s venture into online applications such as e-mail and personal calendars has already sent a shock through existing online applications companies, prompting a wave of innovation after a period of stagnation in the early part of the decade.

Andy Spillane, head of Yahoo Mail, said that the launch of Gmail, along with the emergence of a range of new lightweight “Web 2.0” technologies, had led other companies to accelerate their own new developments. Yahoo itself is testing a new web mail service based on technology it acquired when it bought Oddpost in 2004.

Google said it had tied its calendar service closely to Gmail to make it easier to create calendar entries while communicating by e-mail, and to communicate with other people about events in one’s diary.

Reflecting the company’s roots in search, Google Calendar also includes a search function so users can find other calendars published online – such as one produced by their local sports team, for instance – and integrate these with their personal data.

The company is developing software to make it possible for users to “synch” their Google Calendar with data in their Outlook software, said Mr Sjogreen.

Google said it planned to extend the calendar service, available as a test initially only in the US, to other countries, eventually reaching the 40 countries where it offers Gmail.

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