Google Gears And Converse All-Stars

by Rob Koplowitz.

One of the great joys I have in working for Forrester is the opportunity to collaborate with my colleague Oliver Young on the future of Web 2.0. Oliver and I bring very different perspectives to the table and the final product is better as a result. Part of the reason for our difference in perspective is generational. I am a baby boomer (born between 1946 and 1964). Oliver is what Forrester calls a millennial (born between 1980 and 2000). Oddly enough we share a passion for Converse All-Stars. Mine was the result of seeing them worn by the late great Wilt Chamberlain. Oliver, no doubt, was influenced by some highly pierced and tattooed musician.   

One area where we do not agree is on the impact of Google's recent announcement of Google Gears, a set of JavaScript capabilities that Google has developed and released to Open Source that allow disconnected access to web based content and application logic. The first instantiation is available today and allows users take Google Reader off-line. If you read my recent blog about Google and Salesforce.com targeting Microsoft, you can quickly see how critical this functionality is in competing with a vendor that can leverage an install base of about a half a billion copies of client based productivity software.

In my humble opinion, the initial capabilities of Google Gears are interesting and certainly useful, but are a long country mile from being able to provide a user experience that will lead to a change in the way people work on a day to day basis. Now, if you could off-line a true productivity application like Google Spreadsheets, then you'd really have something valuable. The problem is that the effort of off-lining a multi-user, multi-editor application like Google Spreadsheets is infinitely more complex than an application like Google Reader. The basic issue is that multiple off-line users of the same document is a recipe for edit conflict disaster. There are certainly instances of this being addressed in a somewhat elegant manner. Lotus Notes has a fabulous off-lining, replication model that extends to complex collaborative applications. The problem is that the brains behind Notes replication, Ray and Jack Ozzie, now work for Microsoft. And, they are focused on the Live initiatives, which are directly aimed at Google!

Oliver believes that the combination of all those great big brains at Google, the broader Google development ecosystem and the wide world of an open source community will solve this problem. I say, maybe, but not anytime soon. So, here's the bet: Oliver says that Google will release an off-line version of Google Spreadsheets by October 1st 2007. No way says the wily old veteran. At stake? One pair of brand new Converse All-Stars.

BTW, there is a lot more at stake here than a pair of Converse All-Stars. This could be one of the keys to Google  getting to that next  big pile of money.

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