Google moves to offline software with Gears

Posted by Mark Raby

Mountain View (CA) - Google has unveiled its first major software product that consumers can use without the need for a permanent Internet connection.  Gears will be a new suite of applications that can be accessed offline and then synced with the Web the next time the user has Internet access.

The first to be included in Gears will be Google Reader.  It's a program that will automatically download "hard copies" of websites when the user is online, and make them available to view offline later.  For instance, someone could download the latest news from CNN.com right before heading out on a car trip and read it on the road, without an Internet connection.  This idea has been seen before, for example in certain PDA software titles, but on a very limited scope.

The same technology could be put to use with Google Apps, an online office software suite where users can share documents, spreadsheets, and schedules with people across the globe.  Gears would make the programs still accessible when offline, and then automatically post the updates the next time the user goes online.

Gears is mainly designed as a technology that helps optimize the online experience for people who have intermittent connections, which is why Google says its strongest impact will be in places like Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Gears will also be an open source platform, allowing other developers to make use of the technology.  Mozilla and Adobe are already working with Google to implement the new platform in their software products.