Microsoft has launched a new standalone app for the iPhone designed to make coordinating group meetings quick and easy. Currently only available in the US and Canada, the company has described Invite as “the easiest way to organize meetings on the go.”
Once you sign up using an email address, the app lets you create an event, pick some potential meeting times and send invites to people using their emails. Anyone who is invited will receive an email or, if they have Invite installed, an app notification. They can then pick a preferred timeslot from the app or from a browser – they can even see what times other people have chosen. Invitees also get the chance to offer their own suggestions for a meeting time, should none be suitable. Once all the votes have been collected you get to pick the time and date that you think works best for everyone, then just hit 'Send Calendar Invites' to make it appear on their calendars.
Invite is designed to overcome the biggest obstacle when scheduling meetings—not being able to see the calendars of attendees outside your organization. As a result, your proposed meeting can be repeatedly declined until you find a time that works. Invite simplifies this by letting organizers suggest multiple times that work for them.
Microsoft said that Invite works best for people with Office 365 business and school subscriptions, but it also works with any email account, including Outlook.com, Gmail and Yahoo mail. The app's function has been compared to the similar ‘Send Availability’ feature in Outlook on iOS and Android, although Microsoft claims that Invite provides additional automation to the organization process and does away with the need to cross-reference meeting times.
The app is the latest offering from Microsoft Garage, the in-house development team made up of interns, designers and other employees from across the company who have come together to work on experimental projects. The group's previous work includes two other apps similar to Invite: Tossup, an opinion-gathering app designed to make event planning easier, and Send, a cross between an IM and email app used to communicate quickly with co-workers.
Invite is only available for iOS right now, but Microsoft said that Android and Windows phone versions will be available sometime in the future.