Google Does Winter Cleaning, Shuts Down “Less Popular” Calendar Features, Punchd Loyalty App, Multiple Sync Services

Google likes to make sweeping changes in bulk, getting rid of features that it thinks don’t really matter. Why don’t they matter? Its users tell them so by not using them.

In its “Winter Cleaning,” Google made some minor cuts, as well as a somewhat major one — the shutdown of Punchd, its loyalty card app and service. Merchants must not have been getting enough bang for their bucks by integrating it into their offerings.

The sync service drops are interesting, specifically Google Sync Exchange within Gmail, Contacts, and Calendars. The last Google “cleaning” was the official death of Wave, so the company doesn’t mess around when things just never stick with its users. The company says it aims to make things more “seamless” in 2013, something we’ve seen with its Chrome, Gmail, Google+, and Maps apps for iOS recently.

Here’s what Venkat Panchapakesan, vice president of engineering, had to say:

Technology offers us a way to make a big impact on the world. In 2013, we’ll keep working hard to build a seamless, amazing Google experience for you.

The following will be going away:

– On January 4, 2013, we’ll be shutting down several less popular Google Calendar features. You’ll be unable to create new reservable times on your Calendar through Appointment slots, but existing Appointment slots will continue working for one year. In addition, we’ll discontinue two Calendar Labs—Smart Rescheduler (we recommend Find a time view or Suggested times as alternatives) and Add gadget by URL. Finally, Check your calendar via sms and Create event via sms (GVENT)—U.S.-only features for creating and checking meetings by texting information to Google—will be discontinued today, as most users prefer mobile Calendar apps.

– Google Sync was designed to allow access to Google Mail, Calendar and Contacts via the Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync® protocol. With the recent launch of CardDAV, Google now offers similar access via IMAP, CalDAV and CardDAV, making it possible to build a seamless sync experience using open protocols. Starting January 30, 2013, consumers won’t be able to set up new devices using Google Sync; however, existing Google Sync connections will continue to function. Google Sync will continue to be fully supported for Google Apps for Business, Government and Education. Users of those products are unaffected by this announcement.

– In addition to Google Sync, we’re discontinuing Google Calendar Sync on December 14, 2012 and Google Sync for Nokia S60 on January 30, 2013. We’re also ending service for SyncML, a contacts sync service used by a small number of older mobile devices on January 30, 2013.
The Issue Tracker Data API allows client applications to view and update issues on Project Hosting on Google Code in the form of Google Data API feeds. We’ll shut down the Issue Tracker API on June 14, 2013.

– Punchd is an app that keeps loyalty punch cards on your smartphone. On June 7, 2013, we will discontinue the Punchd Android and iOS apps, and merchants will no longer honor Punchd loyalty cards. Users can continue to earn punches and redeem rewards at participating businesses until June 7, 2013. We remained focused on developing products that help merchants and shoppers connect in new and useful ways.

Do any of these shutdowns affect your own personal flow with Google products? Any surprises? Share those issues in the comments.