Google, this past week, announced its Google Apps Premier Edition, a web-based competitor to Microsoft Office priced at $50 per year with 10 gigabytes of online storage and a 99.9 percent uptime guarantee. For many organizations (here's a list of launch customers
), the office suite is more than enough to satisfy, especially since the data can be reached from any authorized computer anywhere on the net. The only real problem with Google Apps Premier Edition, in fact, is what happens when you AREN'T on the net? Such users might be either caught in that 0.1 percent allowable downtime or, more likely, on the road somewhere between hotspots or maybe sitting on an airliner. When you can't access the net, Google Apps Premier Edition doesn't do much for you, as Josh Bernoff from Forrester Research explains
"Naturally Google believes in a future where everything is connected all the time, and they're wiring up cities to help with it. But this problem would be solved a lot faster if browsers ran apps, especially AJAX apps, offline. Then you could work on your gmail, your Google docs and spreadsheets, your calendar, in your browser. Offline browsing isn't new, but this is more complicated, because once you connected up again your apps would have to sync up -- the whole replication problem that Notes and Outlook take care of now. That's hard -- but not so hard that Google engineers can't figure it out, especially with some help from Firefox, Adobe, and others trying to weaken the Microsoft monopoly."
This lack of offline support is the clear weakness of Google Apps Premier Edition and Microsoft will harp on it until Google fixes the problem, which I believe they are about to do. A startup called 2entwine, now disappeared, made a Flash-based Jabber client named Gush. Well, it started out as a Jabber client but then they added a picture viewer, an RSS reader, and it became more of a desktop suite done in Flash. As you can see here
, the 2entwine pair work for Google now. But on what? Sure, Gtalk is XMPP-based, but I have been told that the former 2entwiners are working on a cross-platform application to enable the use of Google Apps in an offline state, to be a re-branded form of Google Desktop that will include Gtalk.
Here's how it will work:
You sign in once, it connects you to Gtalk then syncs your data with Google's servers via their API's -- email, docs & spreadsheets, reader, and calendar. It stores these data in your local filesystem in an encrypted format, which can only be read by the newly rebranded Google Desktop application. As Google prepares for the always-on, always-connected world, they still need a way for people to access their data when offline.