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Grinchy Google to shut down another batch of services

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As part of its ongoing process of pruning and streamlining its engineering efforts, Google has decided to terminate yet another batch of unloved and little-used services, in what it's calling its "winter cleaning."

Citing a need to "focus on creating beautiful, useful products that improve millions of people's lives every day," Venkat Panchapakesan, the Chocolate Factory's VP of engineering, blogged the latest list of ugly, useless Google products to be discontinued, some as early as Friday.

Google Calendar will lose a few features on January 4 – albeit obscure ones. For starters, users will no longer be able to create "appointment slots" that invite people to reserve their time, although existing slots will continue to work for one year.

They'll also lose the ability to add custom "gadgets" to their calendars, and Google Calendar will no longer be able to automatically suggest alternate times for conflicting appointments – although technically these were both experimental features from Google Labs.

The features that allowed users to check Google Calendar by SMS and use SMS to add new events will be put to sleep on Friday, but they were only ever available to US-based users to begin with.

Google Sync will be discontinued for all but Google Apps customers, but this isn't the Sync that triggered service outages and Chrome crashes earlier this week. Rather, this one is a feature that allowed Google users to access their mail, calendars, and contacts via the Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync protocol. The Chocolate Factory says you shouldn't have to do that, since you can do essentially the same thing using open web protocols.

The Sync feature won't be switched off completely, either. Existing Google Sync connections will continue to work – though for how long is anyone's guess – but users will no longer be able to set up new devices beginning on January 30. The download link for the Google Calendar Sync plug-in for Microsoft Outlook was removed on Friday.

A few other synchronization services are going dark on January 30, as well, including Google Sync for Nokia S60 and support for SyncML, an obsolete contact-syncing standard.

Google says that on June 7, 2013 it will shut down Punchd, a mobile phone–based loyalty reward program that it acquired in 2011. The apps for iOS and Android phones will be removed from their respective app stores, and merchants will stop honoring Punchd reward cards on that date.

Finally, the Chocolate Factory says it will shut down the Issue Tracker Data API, a means of programmatically adding issues and comments to programming projects hosted on Google Code, but this won't happen until June 14, 2013.

All in all, there will likely be few tears shed when the lights go out for this particular batch of services. Should you happen to be one of the unlucky few who actually uses them, however, it's time to say your goodbyes and start looking for alternatives. You have been warned. ®

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