Reading about Google's plans for Google Apps in 2008, I'm struck by how much the new world of online applications is having to mimic the old world of offline applications to thrive. As much as we may want to leave our desktops behind, they clatter along after us, tethered to us by our need to have a physical location.
Google will enable the offline functionality through its Gears technology, which will enable some very interesting things:
Will users be able to edit docs, spreadsheets and presentation offline? [Google's] answer was yes, and that the Google Gears plugin would handle the offline work. In addition, Google Gears support is in the works for Gmail and Google Calendar.
What happens when somebody edits a document offline at the same time another user is editing the online version? The same algorithm that reconciles simultaneous editing will apply here when the offline version is merged back into the online version. Changes will be versioned the same way, so basically in chronological order.
In other words, the truly innovative and interesting work will happen as the two worlds - offline and online - collide. Microsoft, however, arguably has the lead on this one, both because of its desktop heft and because it has been working on this on/offline vision for some time.
Interesting days ahead. Just don't expect them to look much different from the days we've left behind. Indeed, if this Google update is accurate, the new world will look a lot like the stodgy old world we thought we had left behind...except that the two will be mixed in interesting ways.