UPDATED: I’ve updated this post to address the mistake noted below.
Some comments about the Windows Phone Calendar application, inspired by an email question.
Like most everything else in Windows Phone, Calendar is an interesting example of something that is simple and elegant, yes, but also functionally limited.
To understand what I mean, consider how you may have set up your own calendars, whether you’re using Windows Live Calendar, Google Calendar, or Exchange. In each case, there is a single calendar solution, or source (i.e. Windows Live Calendar). But there could also be multiple calendars. These include calendars you create within the source (what Google calls My Calendars) and external calendars that you subscribe to, perhaps, or link to in some way (Google calls these Other Calendars). Within the group of calendars created within the source solution, there is usually a default calendar.
In my own Google and Windows Live calendars, shown here, I have multiple calendars, most of which are subscribed calendars. On the left, in Google Calendar, I have one "source" calendar (Paul), which is also the default calendar. (The subscribed calendars are under Other Calendars.) On the right, in Windows Live, I have two "source" calendars, Paul (the default) and Thurrott Family. (The other two are subscriptions.)
OK, fine. But how does Windows Phone interact with these multiple calendars. Here’s what the Calendars configuration looks like on my own phone:
(The Outlook entry is an Exchange calendar.)
As you can see, each calendar "source" can be On or Off, but you can’t specify anything about multiple calendars. For example, within Windows Live Calendar, I cannot specify that Paul is On and Thurrott Family is Off.
So how does Windows Phone’s Calendar actually interact with your calendars, especially in the case of multiple calendars within each source?
Windows Phone does display all "source" calendars. So in my case, content from both the Paul and Thurrott Family calendars in Windows Live Calendar show up on the phone.
Windows Phone does not display all "source" calendars. It displays only the primary, or default, calendar.
So secondary calendars do not make it across, which is too bad.
Subscribed calendars do not make it across, which makes some sense. Or it would, if you could subscribe to external calendars from Windows Phone. Which you cannot.
And how about this one?
You create a new appointment from the phone. You specify the Calendar (source). To which calendar (within that source) does this appointment get applied?
To the default calendar, of course.
But that means there is no way for me to, say, create an appointment in any secondary calendar from the phone.
(Somewhat off-topic: Windows Phone’s Calendar also doesn’t support Tasks, which is arguably an equally important problem.)
To return to a point I’ve made repeatedly about Apple’s solutions and must now make about the similarly engineered Windows Phone, you can’t be both simple and full-featured. Microsoft has opted with Windows Phone, in v1 form anyway, for simple. This is arguably the right choice, but the limitations of this choice will appear in multiple places all over this system. And this is just one basic example.
Now, over time, I expect Microsoft to fill in the gaps. We will get more functionality, and perhaps in this case, the Calendar configuration UI will change to support multiple calendars within a source. Perhaps it will change to support subscribed calendars too. As these changes occur in my theoretical future, Windows Phone will become ever more complicated. And ever more full-featured/powerful.
The trick is finding the right balance. Right now, on average, I’d say that Windows Phone is heavily skewed toward the simplicity end of the scale. This is by design, but it also means there will be compromises. Over time, it will need to move towards the other end of the scale. You can’t have it both ways. Several generations of iPods/iTunes/iPhones don’t necessarily "prove" that, but they certainly are examples of creeping featuritis.