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Sunrise's new keyboard makes it easy to book your next meeting

Sunrise's new keyboard makes it easy to book your next meeting


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Scheduling a meeting can be a pain: it usually involves a lot of back and forth and long email threads nailing down an availability that works for both parties. Sunrise calendar already makes it easy to view your schedule and to-dos from a variety of sources in one place, and its new feature launching today aims to simplify the process of actually scheduling your next meeting.

Sunrise's solution is unorthodox: it's actually a keyboard called Meet. With the Meet keyboard, your calendar is presented in a way that lets you see what time slots you have available in any app you can see a keyboard. Choose the slots that work the best for you, select a location for your meeting, and click return. A link is inserted into your message or email, and you can send it off to the other party. They click on the link, choose from the time slots that you provided, and boom, the meeting is scheduled and added to both of your calendars. You don't even have to give your meeting a title — Meet will automatically add both your names as the title of the calendar entry. The process sounds complex, but it's rather fluid in practice and certainly cuts down on the often lengthy email threads required to book meetings. It also prevents having to switch between a variety of apps to find a time that you're available.

Meet is rolling out to the iOS, Android, and web app versions of Sunrise today. It's the first major feature released by Sunrise since the company was acquired by Microsoft in February. Assimilating into a company the size of Microsoft can be a daunting transition for any company, especially for one as young and small as Sunrise, but co-founder Pierre Valade insists that nothing has really changed in Sunrise's day-to-day. "We have more resources available, but things are still very early [with Microsoft]," says Valade.

"We have more freedom to experiment because we're not Outlook."

Microsoft's purchase of Sunrise came hot on the heels of its acquisition of Acompli, an email app for iOS and Android that quickly was rebranded to Outlook. While Acompli has a lot to live up to with the Outlook brand, Valade notes that Sunrise doesn't have to work under the same kind of environment. "We have more freedom to experiment because we're not Outlook," says Valade. "There are different expectations for a legacy brand than what we have. We can be more aggressive about pushing ideas."

That freedom has allowed Sunrise to continue developing its ideas already in progress, such as Meet, while under the Microsoft banner. The Meet keyboard is the result of more than a year of development and is the latest in numerous additions to the app since it first launched in February 2013.

The calendar space has been getting increasingly more crowded over the past few years, and Sunrise has to contend with popular apps such as Fantastical and big players like Google refining their calendar experiences. According to Valade, this intense competition "validates the idea that time is a very valuable dimension," and it all ties back to your calendar. Your calendar knows where you're supposed to be, where you need to be next, and can even know what you have to get done while you're there. That kind of information is exactly what busy people have used personal assistants for, but now an app on your phone can be just as effective at keeping you on track.

Meet is designed to make your calendar an even more useful assistant, but it's not yet clear how effective it will be in the real world. It's currently limited to one-on-one meetings, and it's not obvious how this would work with scheduling a group meeting. Meet's biggest hurdle will be getting people who are used to replying to an email with their availability to click a link and select the various time slots. Sunrise doesn't require recipients to create accounts or download the app when they click a link from Meet, but if you are a Sunrise user, the experience is understandably better. Still, changing habits that have been in place for years is not an easy thing to do, and it remains to be seen how many people will actually take advantage of the new feature.

Meet's biggest hurdle will be breaking old habits

Valade's goals for Sunrise are more ambitious than what's currently being shown. He envisions a future where "there is no [user interface], the calendar just runs in the background, managing your life." That sounds fantastic, but until we get there, we'll still be pecking at our phones to book our next lunch deal. But at least with Meet, there are fewer pecks involved.