Google Goes Offline

When Google announced its latest foray into an area of software in which Microsoft holds dominance, it was hard to miss the swipes aimed at Redmond. The search giant has decided that it will no longer confine itself to online-only technologies, but wants to live in the offline world and compete with Microsoft there as well.

Yesterday, at Google Developer Day 2007 in Sydney, Australia, Google announced Google Gears, an open-source program "for creating offline web applications," according to Google's press release.

"With Google Gears we're tackling a key limitation of the browser in order to make it a stronger platform for deploying all types of applications and enabling a better user experience in the cloud," Eric Schmidt, chief executive officer of Google, stated in the release. "We believe strongly in the power of the community to stretch this new technology to the limits of what's possible and ultimately emerge with an open standard that benefits everyone."

Of course, Google would tell you that this is no broadside against Microsoft, but it's no great stretch to surmise that phrases like, "We believe strongly in the power of community" and "emerge with an open standard that benefits everyone" are shots at Microsoft's proprietary approach to software.

The statement continues: "Google is offering Google Gears as a free, fully open source technology in order to help every web application, not just Google applications." Again, Google implies that Microsoft technology, being proprietary, is built to service only Microsoft products.

One of Google Gears' main purposes is to make Google Apps more appealing by allowing its online functionality to move offline. That will make it a more direct competitor to Microsoft Office, which, somewhat ironically, has been moving more of its abilities online in recent years. Google Apps is a suite of productivity programs that include e-mail, word processing, spreadsheets and a calendar. Previously, all work done through Google Apps has been available only when online, a situation not always conducive to collaboration.

Google Gears operates through three core modules, according to Google:

  • LocalServer -- for storing and accessing application pages offline;
  • Database -- for storing and accessing application data on the user's computer; and
  • WorkerPool -- for performing long-running tasks (such as the code that synchronizes data between a server and users' computers).

Google Gears, which is in beta, supports the Windows, Mac and Linux operating systems, and the Internet Explorer (6.0 and higher) and Firefox (1.5 and higher) browsers. It's licensed under the open-source New BSD license.

About the Author

Keith Ward is editor of Virtualization Review magazine. You can contact Keith at [email protected].