Google Puts Gears in Motion

Google has announced that it’s taking Google Gears to the road, a move the company said is intended to make sense out of the dense and complex process of developing for the mobile Web.

Google Gears, previously only available for desktops, is software that enables device users to access online services when they are not connected to the Internet.

The launch of the application will give smartphone users the ability to use Web apps even when they are not connected to a network. Google Gears for mobile would simplify the development process enabling developers to use their current coding skills to create mobile applications, said Charles Wiles, product manager for the Google Mobile Team.

“It’s a mobile zoo out there. If you’ve ever tried coding up a mobile client application, you’ve probably noticed that the huge variety of mobile operating systems makes it tough to build rich applications that work on every device. We face the same challenges. But what if developers could deploy applications directly to mobile browsers rather than develop native applications?” he stated.

Google Gears to Go, Please

Google’s launch of its mobile browser extension comes several months after the release of the desktop version, which is currently still in beta, last May. In addition to providing developers with the ability to take their applications offline, it also enables them to create more responsive applications by hiding latency issues through controlled caching of data and storage of information between sessions, according to Google.

Although the open source browser extension for desktop PCs has generally not been widely adopted, the release of the mobile application is a good thing for Google and developers, according to Neil Strother, a JupiterResearch analyst.

“It means good things if you’re Google,” he told LinuxInsider. “And it means good things if you’re a developer that’s trying to get on mobile in sort of a quick and dirty way. I don’t know that that many people are using Google Gears because it’s still in beta. But it possibly sets a new level of capabilities on phones that will work when you’re not in a network situation.

“It’s a nice trick and a valuable thing but just I don’t know that that many people are working on or using Web applications as heavily as they do online. It’s really nascent. The notion here is that as people use their phones more for various activities, having this capability of having an application running when you’re not in a network situation seems pretty handy. But the market is not developed enough or mature enough to say that that will be a huge differentiator,” he explained.

Google Gears for mobile is for the time being available only for Internet Explorer on handsets running Windows Mobile 5 or 6. However, Google said it is working on bringing Google Gears to Android, its upcoming mobile operating system (OS) and other mobile platforms with support for Opera and perhaps even the iPhone.

Smoke and Mirrors?

Does Google Gears for mobile break any real new ground? Not according to Instat analyst Bill Hughes, who sees nothing “radically or even slightly new” about the announcement.

“Smartphones have had browsers for years. Depending upon the application, it has been standard practice to develop mobile applications using this environment. What I see in this announcement is taking a practice that has been common practice and spinning it to sound revolutionary,” he told LinuxInsider.

Applications that use locally available data are still best done in the developer applications environment (DAE), and the applications that require real-time data from a host are still best done with a Web browser, Hughes noted.

“The benefit for Google is to create the illusion that they are advancing in the wireless space. Again, perhaps this is true, but I do not see how. This will affect Android by giving the illusion that Google is a leader in wireless,” he concluded.

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