Google Gears takes things like Gmail (although Gmail's not available this way yet) that normally require you to be online and moves them to your desktop.
Why Google will be likely to succeed:
- Lightwieght program -- doesn't tie up a lot of resources on your computer. If you can automagically use web-based programs without being connected to the web, they should move at the same speed you would expect when connected.
- Open source software -- Google is releasing the software for anyone to be able to use. This is as important for consumer-facing sites as it is for internal sites. For Google, if you get everyone on your standard, then you wind up with dependent users and monetization opportunities.
- Support for major browser platforms -- Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Safari are all supported now and Opera support is promised. This will be increasingly important in the mobile space with users running versions of IE on Windows Mobile, Opera on all kinds of devices, and Safari on Apple's soon-to-be-released mobile offerings.
- Test base of applications that are consumer-facing and corporation-facing -- Gmail, Google Docs, and Google Calendar for consumers and the same suite of applications offered in Google Apps Basic and Premium. Consider being able to deploy Google Apps in your organization to users that needed offline access without having to support Thunderbird or Outlook -- everything happens through the browser whether the user's online or offline.
- Strong partners -- Mozilla, Adobe, and Opera for now. Adobe's done pretty well at creating the PDF standard and with their Apollo platform they have a heavy interest in offline capabilities.
So consider this:
You have a flash drive/portable storage device that runs a browser like Firefox (you can already do this). When you get to work, you plug it into your machine and do everything online. At the end of the day, you take just the portable storage device home with you and plug it into your machine at home that might not be connected to the internet and get some work done. The next morning you come in and plug in your device and everything automagically synchronizes.
Of course in the scenario described above, if you were to apply the Google Apps suite, you might wonder why most people would needed anything other than a machine running open-source Linux with a pretty good processor, an ok video card, and a keyboard and mouse. If you were really thinking about it, you might even wonder why you couldn't accomplish an awful lot wit, say, a Google Phone and the recently announced Palm Foleo .
David Berlind has a great article on Google Gears with some key interviews with folks at both Google and Adobe, so check it out through the link below.
Link -- David Berlind
Link -- Google Gears