In an age of “smart” everything – phone, TV, scale, watch, fridge – here’s an idea that’s refreshingly contrarian: build an app that’s not so smart. Not dumb. Just one that doesn’t try to be smart enough to do everything for a user.
That’s the idea behind Cal, a new calendar app announced today by the startup Any.do. The big draw of the app is a nice-looking, fluid interface, which automatically changes according to where you are in your schedule and pushes things down after you’ve completed appointments or tasks. One quirk is that it highlights a gap between appointments, and allows you to fill it with something or leave it as “Zen time.” The concept is a bit similar to SpotOn.it, which takes free time in your schedule and alerts you about different events going on locally at those times.
Cal enters a market of several apps vying to manage a user’s schedule. All of the personal assistant apps dabble in this area, from Google Now to Grokr to Osito. But the most tempting comparison is to Tempo, a smart calendar spun out of SRI International that pushes things like appointment alerts, conference call info, relevant documents for a meeting, and suggestions for meeting places to a users’s phone. “That’s for a very, very busy person,” argues Any.do CEO Omer Perchik. “We are less focused on the AI and the “smart.” I’m trying to build a product for my mother.”
The app will be released later this summer by Any.do, the maker of a well-received task manager that’s been a favorite for Android users since it originally launched on the platform. Cal is the second app in what will be an entire suite of productivity apps. Next on the agenda, Perchik says, are email and notes clients. He says the mantra and goal of the company is to give the user the tools to have a “Good day, every day.” To that end, Perchik has even toyed with building an alarm clock app, after hearing users tell him that they’ve had their best days when they’ve gotten a good night’s sleep.
Perchik is certainly committed to playing the part. Before we even spoke to discuss the product announcement, I noticed that he signed off every email with a friendly, “Good day.” (The detail stayed with me because it seemed particularly Fez-ian.) I looked back at email exchanges we had a few months ago, and he wasn’t using that sign off yet.
The idea of a productivity app suite is compelling, but for some users, having to download all those separate apps may create too much friction. To have the most powerful experience using Cal, Perchik says, you can integrate the app with your Any.do task app and have those to-do items imported to Cal. Which means I’d have to go back and download the task app if I wanted that functionality. It’s a small detail, but having that fractured experience could turn off some users who would prefer a one-stop shop.