Google’s announcement that they have launched Google Gears is significant as it means the plethora of web-based applications which once were not able to run without internet connectivity can now function without a connection. The technology is available as open-source meaning there will likely be great interest in using it to develop applications.
When you add the words “open-source” to anything it seems to get people interested.
What does this mean? Simply stated, the one major Achilles heals of web-based applications is their inability to function properly when there is no internet connection. This limitation has now been lifted.
Of course a spreadsheet can function fine without internet access but an application requiring updated data feeds would not.
Keep in mind that web-based programs don’t have the rich graphics functionality of desktop applications yet but that will change over time.
So my take on this news is Google could end up being positioned as the ultimate middleware enabler sitting between the programmers and the browser. Well, a browser may become a thing of the past now if you have a way to allow programs to run without network connectivity.
Rather than take Microsoft on directly the company will use the open-source model which has worked so very well for the Linux community. This allows the world’s programmers to contribute to the initiative and also makes it something cool and interesting to developers.
It is way too early to say this initiative will hurt Microsoft but I would imagine Microsoft Office will feel increasing pressure from applications which use Google Gears.
Microsoft may counter this initiative with something similar (like a Groove+) and in fact they will likely have to in order to stay competitive. They can even have hooks into their programming tools allowing tight integration with whatever solution they come up with.
Microsoft can even opt to develop a program or two for Google Gears. The Redmond-based software giant has shown it can dominate the Apple software environment so why not Google’s?
In the end, Google Gears has the potential to shake up the software market by allowing developers to come up with leading-edge hosted and persistent applications. This could mean consumers will finally be able to have their hosted cake and eat it offline.