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6/4/2007
09:05 AM
David Linthicum
David Linthicum
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Google Gears Could Eliminate SaaS Achilles Heal

At Google's Developer Day event on May 31st, the company announced Google Gears, an open-source technology for creating off-line Web applications. You may think of "offline Web" as an oxymoron, but this type of technology is sorely needed to get around a key limitation of SaaS - the ability to use your SaaS applications when you're disconnected from the Internet.

At Google's Developer Day event on May 31st, the company announced Google Gears, an open-source technology for creating offline Web applications.

For those of you who think "offline Web" is an oxymoron, perhaps you're right. However, this type of technology is sorely needed to get around a key limitation of SaaS - the ability to use your SaaS applications when you're disconnected from the Internet.I call this the "airplane factor." As sales guys are flying around, they find that lack of access to customer and sales information limits productivity. Salesforce.com has provided some capabilities to work around this problem since 2003, but the fact that Google is on board could mean that the other SaaS vendors will have a quick solution, and soon.

From this article on eWeek.com, we get a better feeling about Google Gears from Bret Taylor, head of Google developer programs. "Taylor said he believes Google Gears marks an important step in the evolution of Web applications because it addresses the issue of availability of data and applications when there's no Internet connection available, or when a connection is slow or unreliable."

What's more interesting here is not the capabilities of technology such as Google Gears -that's really old news - but the fact that Google is in the game with something that's both open and cheap. Thus, developers will latch on to the product quickly, and SaaS vendors will find that off-line productivity, while complex, is something they can offer their clients, and get around an objection that many potential users have when it comes to SaaS.

Some of the core problems to consider are both data synchronization and security. When providing the convenience of off-line access, there needs to be a mechanism to sync the off-line data with the on-line data while ensuring data integrity. Moreover, the data must be secure. Barely a week goes by without hearing about a laptop lost or stolen that contained sensitive information. The information stored on the laptop needs to be encrypted and thus unreadable if it falls into the wrong hands.

The use of technology such as Google Gears goes well beyond SaaS, including the ability to manage content off-line from any browser-based application that needs to function in a disconnected environment. I, for one, would find that to be very useful given the number of hours that I'm sitting in 23B, on some flight to somewhere.

Count on the use of off-line data access technology to increase dramatically in the near future, for both SaaS and other uses. Clearly we are moving to a connected world that needs to accommodate times when we are disconnected.

Application integration and service oriented architecture expert David Linthicum heads the product development, implementation and strategy consulting firm The Linthicum Group. Write him at david@linthicumgroup.com.At Google's Developer Day event on May 31st, the company announced Google Gears, an open-source technology for creating off-line Web applications. You may think of "offline Web" as an oxymoron, but this type of technology is sorely needed to get around a key limitation of SaaS - the ability to use your SaaS applications when you're disconnected from the Internet.

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