Though Google believes ubiquitous internet connectivity will phase out the need to work on the desktop, Dion Almaer, an engineer at Google, says the company hopes developers will continue to utilize Google Gears, an open set of APIs, to make rich internet applications (RIAs) work better offline at the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco today.
“Google wants more and more stuff on the Web,” Almaer says. “But we also want to make it easier for you guys [developers] to do take this stuff offline.”
Almaer also discussed how the use of Google Gears extends beyond making an application merely work offline. It can also help people or companies use applications over the web but store data locally instead of in the cloud.
Almaer offered an example. Buxfer is an internet company that’s targeted towards students and young people living together who need to keep track of bills and pay them collectively. Some of Buxfer’s said they liked the product, and didn’t mind using it online, but didn’t like storing the financial data in the cloud.
So Buxfer used Gears to allow those users to access the application on the Web but to store the data locally.
This will be an even more interesting question for companies as more data gets stored in the cloud. It’s undeniable that the power of accessing software from any machine (albeit as long as it’s secure) can be a powerful thing for businesses. Certain industries, however, such as finance or health care, will have some pretty strict policies around what machines data gets stored on.
Google first used Google Gears last year to help build an offline mode for its RSS reader, Google Reader, and recently its Google Docs & Spreadsheets.
During a Q & A session, a member of the audience asked Almaer if Google hoped to do the same for Gmail (which this reporter thought was an interesting question, seeing as a lack of offline mode for Gmail has been a point of contention towards enterprise adoption).
“For gmail, we haven’t said anything about that that,” he says. “You can imagine we want to get offline for all our apps. You can imagine we’re working hard on that.”