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6/1/2007
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Users See Promise, Pitfalls Of Google Gears

It may not be a high priority item for shops that don't have the manpower to develop APIs for Web applications, but the pairing of on- and offline versions holds appeal.

Enterprise users aren't falling all over themselves to adopt and deploy Google Gears, the new tools for using Google Web applications offline, but that doesn't mean that the folks at Microsoft shouldn't be worried, long-term.

Arizona State University is one of the most aggressive business adopters of Google apps, with more than 40,000 students and faculty using Gmail instead of campus-run e-mail, and a portal to provide access to calendar, and Docs & Spreadsheet. ASU technology officer Adrian Sannier said he's eager for his team to deploy and develop using Google's online-offline framework.

"Clearly Google has developed this as a capability," said Sannier. "And they're looking at it as a new way of doing Web-based or browser-based computing, and utilizing the power of the client more.

"If you're Microsoft, then geez, it's interesting. Google has taken the public posture that, 'We have a different way of doing computing.'"

At the same time, Sannier sees the possibility for spoiling what makes the apps so appealing in the first place. "Google's major strength is the degree to which the client is so light, so browser-based, that it makes adoption and upgrades very easy," Sannier explains. "...Depending on how heavy the offline client starts to become, that has the potential to dilute Google's advantage."

Even for small shops like Portland-based marketing firm Metropolitan Group -- which doesn't have the manpower to develop APIs for Web applications itself -- the pairing of on- and offline versions holds appeal.

"We have offices in different states, and Word and Excel have dramatic limitations when you need multiple people working on something at the same time," said operations manager Jason Rambo, whose shop uses Google Mail, Talk, and is testing Google Docs. Thus Rambo is testing a sort of "virtual bulletin board" for Google Docs that tracks job status on specific projects across different locations in different states.

For some companies already using Google Apps or any company's Web apps offline -- Google Gears isn't a top priority.

Prudential Preferred Properties CRE, a Chicago real estate firm affiliated with Prudential Financial, has 80 or so employees using Gmail and Google Calendar -- but not Google Docs & Spreadsheets. Network uptime is critical to doing business at PPP, so if the network goes down, there are more important things to worry about than whether Web apps work or not.

"It's not something I've really been sitting back, saying oh I wish they'd roll this out," IT director Cameron Daily said.

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