Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Does It Make Sense To Take Gmail Offline?

About a week back, when I was working with an intern on a project which required AJAX in an Java application. I showed him a few sample codes on using GWT (Google Web Toolkit) and he left. About an hour later, he called me up and told me about Google Gears. Somehow I missed the news announcement on 30th May and had heard it for the first time from this intern. I downloaded it and installed it on windows machine and realized it was so much like GWT, but without Java and a lot simpler. Google Gears was handling the database and AJAX easily, while doing it in my Java app required GWT and JDBC. Google Gears was slightly slower in performance, but then was simpler to implement. I know that GWT is more for apps and Gears is for webapps, but I really compared it that way since that was my first look at Gears. After that I checked out Google Reader, a nice app from google that uses Google Gears and I was pretty excited about this API!!

The next thing I was doing was sending emails to other interns from that project. While doing that I read few discussions, how gmail could be used offline and read this today. I think it'll be pretty easy for google to port gmail using Google Gears and will be the next step from the Gmail developers. We know that everyone uses an email client at work or home to send/receive emails. But then with broadband getting popular and people connected 24hrs to the internet, how much does an offline email app be a requirement. I don't understand why I use Outlook to send emails, when I could do everything with gmail open in a browser window all the time. The reason I do it is that my work email is not a gmail account and everyone at office uses the office domain email. I guess a lot of Outlook users use it only for sending/receiving the company email. So I really don't think it makes much sense to have Gmail Offline. But yes, I also need to think about dialup users, who can have their phone lines connected all the time.

The main killer application I think for Google Gears are Mobile Devices or "Really Thin Clients". You could have web applications like Sales CRM, Survey Systems, Poll Agents etc. that run on mobile phones / Thin Clints where network access is unavailable, and whenever a network is available it synchronizes with the server and updates the changes. I think I'm gonna try to implement my Mobile Reminder Application as a pilot using Google Gears now and see the results for myself!


Ranganath said...

google gears is cool.. but can it be used to develop mobile apps!?

Saptarshi Purkayastha said...

Yes it surely can be on browsers that support javascript, DOM2 & AJAX. Opera Mini 3 comes to mind for such a browser. I think thats the killer application for Google Gears. I have yet to start developing the app, but then I think its a gr8 thing to build.

Other than mobiles phones, I think the mobile thin client like the XO (OLPC), PDA etc are good places where google gears may be useful!!