Monday, December 7, 2009

I stand by Gears!

So, no sooner had I posted the last post on my blog when I saw that Google are seriously considering dropping Google Gears at all.

Google are dropping support for the most important piece of software in the last 10 years?
Yes, and no.

Google introduced the world to the idea of offline applications by creating Gears. But maintaining it in all the different browsers and all the different Operating Systems (and variations of each) is painful. And was necessary until HTML5.

But HTML5 is a standard way to implement offline applications, it will be implemented in all browsers soon enough and it will be implemented in a standard way. And Google doesn't need to maintain it.

Google gets what they want and they don't need to support it.

One of the new features in Chrome that separates it from other browsers is the speed that it runs javascript. This became a major feature and forced Mozilla to speed their javascript up to compete. IE will do the same. (Mozilla had a faster javascript engine but they released it sooner than they would have otherwise done.)

So Google don't need Gears but it has already changed the world.

The most important piece of software this decade

[and most people don't even know what it is!]

I've spoken about this software before, I think, but it deserves its own blog post.

And what piece of software is the most important for the last 10 years?

*drum roll*

Google Gears!

"Oh yes of cour- eh, what?!" I hear you say.

Google Gears is a silly little piece of software that merely allows one to run javascript offline. It tricks the browser into thinking that changes are going to the net but are actually stored locally. When an Internet connection is available, the databases are synchronised. Very technical stuff.

But what it really allows is a PC to run only web applications and allows web applications to be feature rich as desktop ones. What is really allows is GMail to compete with Outlook and Google Apps to compete with Office. It not only allows Google to compete directly with Microsoft head-to-head but gives them a slight lead.

Since Google's applications are designed with sharing in mind and Microsoft's are not, Google is ahead in this respect. And since Google's applications are on the Web, you can get to them pretty much from anywhere.

And since Google are driven by a policy of "good-enough as fast as possible" their applications are sleek and ready to be used online - Microsoft have some way to go if they want to compete in this area.

In the mid-90s I remember a whole host of companies decided to take on Microsoft directly and all of them came off second best. Netscape (with navigator - remember that?) , SUN (SunOffice, Java, Net-PC) , IBM (OS/2), Apple (pre-Jobs, iPod).

Netscape is no longer but they did spawn Firefox which is eating into IE's market share in a big way. SUN has some amazing software like Java and SunOffice (or OpenOffice) but they never really impacted on Microsoft's dominance as they looked like they might have. The less said about OS/2 - the better. And Apple reached their lowest point when Microsoft invested in them to keep the company alive.

SUN's vision for a NetPC is coming about again with Google's ChromeOS. The only difference really is that SUN's vision had lots of pretty blue SUN Servers being the central store for all data and apps while Google's vision has lots of ugly grey and black Internet Servers being the central store. (Internet being the important part). Google are making true what SUN never could - "The (Inter)Network is the Computer".

Whether Google will succeed where many have failed remains to be seen but they have lined up some interesting tools to get themselves with at least a chance and at the heart of each of these tools is Google Gears making it all possible.