I've come to believe that Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) is the next Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT). Here's why: Google is the best copycat in the business -- far better than Microsoft ever was.

Think about it: Almost nothing in Google's arsenal of tools is a new idea. It just takes old ideas and makes them better. Let's run down the list, shall we?







Google Groups


Google Talk


Google Maps




Now, how about Microsoft?






Mac OS


Lotus Notes

Internet Explorer

Netscape Navigator

As of late last week, you could add Google Calendar to the list of copycat innovations now being brought to you by Sergey and Larry. Like the rest, this tool is very functional, with a clean design and huge potential upside. How much upside depends on the creativity of Google's engineers.

I'll get into that in a few minutes. First, let's look under the hood. Google Calendar, like Google Finance, offers users a very quick way to manage their schedules. Entering data is easy, too. For example, a function called "Quick Add" allows you to use natural language to enter an appointment. I tried it for booking a beer with a buddy of mine last night. All I entered was my friend's name, the location, and the time "at 7 p.m." Google Calendar then created the entry and placed it in the appropriate slot. Sweet.

Though this is hardly the first online calendaring tool -- it's been possible to publish Outlook calendars over the Web for years now -- this one harbors some interesting possibilities. At the top of the list: integration with other Google services -- Gmail for meeting invites, for example. Even more interesting, however, is the natural-language function tied to meeting location. It's hardly precise, but after I entered the town and state for the eatery we'd be at, Google Maps brought up several choices, including our intended destination. Again, sweet.

Future integrations could include posting live phone links in calendar records, thereby allowing users to dial meeting participants or event locations with one click, a la Skype. (Surely Google Talk could facilitate this, right?) And then there's the possibility of targeted ads. Let's say you travel a fair amount and your calendar includes flight arrangements and hotel bookings. Google could display Expedia pitches every time you enter an out-of-town meeting in your digital date book.

Here's the point: Google Calendar may look like a calendaring tool. The truth is that it's much more. It's another way for Google to tie together services into a portal, which offers more opportunity to collect valuable user data, and which means an even better advertising platform.

That's the white-shoe Madison Avenue crowd looking over your shoulder, Fool. They're wondering whether you're free for lunch.

Perhaps you're also free for related Foolishness?

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Microsoft is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers is frightened by how many Google tools he actually uses. Tim didn't owns shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story at the time of publication. You can find out what is in his portfolio by checking Tim's Fool profile . The Motley Fool has an ironclad disclosure policy .