Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Gears - Google's Web API Framework for Rich Functionality

First Google Apps, then Google Chrome. Finally Google Gears! With Google Gears, I can now see the whole big picture about how this will go head to head with Microsoft on the productivity side, specifically Microsoft Office.

In one to two years, I am pretty confident that Microsoft will have to start giving away Office. Google Gears has overcome one of the major hurdles of web applications, which is allowing web applications to be run offline. So I will tell you how I came across Gears. The first time I heard about it was today when I was searching for a way for Gmail to be run offline.

Actually, what I was searching for was hoping that Google was going to make an appliance or some software that would allow the Google Apps Gmail service to replicate to an onsite server for paid customers, since Gmail still requires you to connect to the Google Apps Service which means it is very slow to send email to your colleagues if you are in the same office. (Maybe this will be a new product for Google? Have a server sit at the office that knows if you are sending email to the same domain to route it locally instead of having to send it to Google's servers) We have this problem because we send very large attachments frequently.

However, instead of finding this, I came across Google's blog that offline support for their Gmail service and Calendar was coming.  

http://googlesystem.blogspot.com/2008/07/gmail-and-google-calendar-to-add.html

As our organization uses email very heavily, I decided to try this offline service and was pleasantly surprised. You can now take your entire Gmail Account offline literally. Gears allows you to take your entire web browser offline by providing a set of API's that allow the browser application to work as though you are online. No other email provider has done this. For our company it is amazing because it also allows us to have the Gmail Search Offline which up until this point required us to be online.

Once you see how this works, you will be able to appreciate what you can do with this. When Google makes this available for their docs and spreadsheets, you will no longer need excel or word, because those applications can run offline on your computer! On top of that, when you save it, it automatically synchronizes with your Google Docs! Heck I think they will just make Google Docs offline instead. I can't wait till this happens because this will really change the landscape of how applications works.

Gears is probably the biggest contribution to the web community in a long time. Google show be praised for this because it is an open source framework and I for one will be looking heavily at how Gears can be integrated into our web based applications.

Mark my words, Gears is the future of web development!

You can view more about Gears at http://code.google.com/apis/gears/

Apparently the feature for Google Docs offline already exists, now I just have to figure out how to use it! It seems that it is only available right now for the regular Gmail service and not Google Apps Premier Edition. More on this, probably just a setting!

http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2008/03/offline-access-to-google-docs.html


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