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Google Launching Web-Based Calendar Service

Google Inc. (GOOG), the top online search engine, is unveiling a calendar service that allows users to store appointments online, receive reminders about them and share those plans with others.

The offering, available starting Thursday at http://www.google.com/calendar, is designed to make it easy for users to add entries, said Carl Sjogreen, product manager for Google Calendar.

Gmail, Google's mail service, has been modified to automatically recognize when messages mention an event so recipients can seamlessly add it to their calendar. Users can also add entries in simple text, such as "Coffee with Mom on Sunday at 11 a.m. at Cafe La Boheme," eliminating the need to fill out forms.

Google Calendar is the latest offering from the Mountain View-based company, which analysts have said is gradually replacing its search-only business model with that of a portal, or all-purpose Web site.

Over the past four years, Google has been catching up to rivals Yahoo Inc. (YHOO) and Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) MSN by adding e-mail, news, photo sharing, instant messaging, shopping and mapping services and a finance section.

Sjogreen said the calendar service is consistent with Google's oft-stated mission of helping people organize the world's data and make it accessible and useful.

The new service gives Google fuel as it competes against Yahoo, which has offered a calendar service since 1998 and in October acquired Upcoming.org, an event-planning site.

A feature that allows users of Google Calendar to send invitations and manage guest lists also helps the company take on Evite.com, the online invitation service owned by IAC/InterActiveCorp.

Google also stands to profit from the calendar and other services, which help keep users moored at its own site instead of sending them to other places on the Web. That gives Google more chances to serve users adds, which account for most of its profits.