I didn’t have time last week to make a big point about the announcement of Google Gears, an open source software project aimed at enabling online web services (such as Google Reader, an RSS client, and eventually all the other Google Apps) to work offline.
This is a big deal. More and more people are trying to find ways to stop paying Microsoft hundreds of dollars per PC for its operating system and its Office applications. It has been difficult to do business without both. I have mostly XP machines (haven’t yet upgraded to Vista–too many mixed reviews). I bought a Lindows machine a couple of years ago from Wal-Mart, but never used it. OpenOffice doesn’t impress me, though I have it on one of my machines, and have used it a bit recently. I’m actually typing this blog post from the airport (love free Wifi) on my first ever Macbook. (No, I don’t have Windows XP on my Macbook.) I’m trying to like this Macbook, but it’s still weird for me. I still prefer Windows XP.
But like many entrepreneurs, I’m always on the lookout for new reasons to save money, including not paying Microsoft so much for all the computer systems we buy. I’d really like to be able to add cheap computers for our call center, for example, that run Linux (maybe Ubuntu). Through their web browser, our reps would be able to use Skype Unlimited for all their outbound calls, and use our CRM system to track their calls. We use Google Notebook extensively in our company for organizing information that we find while browsing the web, and we use Google Spreadsheet for tracking many things.
As more good online services appear, we’ll be able to get the software we need without paying much at all. And if that software works offline too, it will make it possible for our mobile users to take work with them.
By making Google Gears open source, Google will accelerate the extension of thousands of online applications to mobile, offline versions, thus striking a blow to Microsoft’s revenue streams, including eventually, their Office Applications.
It sounds like Google Gears is still a young open source project, but I think it is a great move, and will generate a lot more interest in online software.
(Sorry, this post is just a draft, but my plane is boarding.)