These components are available in Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari and Opera on Windows, Mac and Linux. In an effort to provide this as an industry standard, Google is co-operating with Adobe. The promise is that the Gears API will be available in Adobes new Apollo platform. Opera is interested bringing the technology to the handheld.
This adds to the trend started by the Dojo Offline Toolkit to support offline apps by a small browser add-on reported on by Brady a month ago. Hopefully the Dojo API and the Gear API will converge to avoid developer frustration, and increase the total developer ecosystem.
I find this development very interesting. The demand for offline rich applications is still strong, but you want to combine it with access to the grid environment that the Internet provides. On a recent trip to New Zealand I discovered the pain of 300-500 ms lag for the web apps I use. Ability to do more stuff locally would have been a much beneficial ability.
David Heinemeier Hansson blogged a while ago in You’re not on a plane that apps only need to live online and that the offline idea that you only need on an airplane is irrelevant. I disagree with his idea that the net is ubiquitous. Perhaps in a distant future the net will be available everywhere, all the time. Even when that happens, we still have the problem of speed-of-light latency, like the 200 ms the roundtrip to New Zealand from Europe. In the meantime we need to be able to provide ability to use the combination of hosted platforms and local apps.
The one missing part of the Google announcement is how we actually sync multiple different local sources to remote data sources. They have chosen not to tackle this area due to the highly application specific domain. Is this perhaps a new field for the disconnected distributed version control technologies?