In what might be characterized as a big ‘Duh!’ Mac World reports that Google and Adobe cited a trend at the Web 2.0 Expo conference in San Francisco this week, toward enabling offline access for online applications. Gee, you think?
In my article last month in EContent Magazine on online office applications (not available online without a subscription), one of the key success factors cited by Kyle McNabb, an analyst at Forrester Research was offline access. Enterprise users don’t want to be locked into having an always-on internet connection. What happens when they are on a plane or outside of a hotspot? Is productivity supposed to stop?
Donald Leka, CEO at Transmedia, makers of Glide Business, an online operating environment which includes office productivity tools for word processing, a spreadsheet and a presentation program (among other tools) says enterprise customers need a way to work on or offline. “Enterprise customers need a reliable bridge between the online and offline worlds that they can count on. The enterprise customer must be able to work locally or online on spreadsheets, presentations and documents and files must be automatically saved and synchronized to both local hard drives and to online servers for anytime, anywhere access from a PC or mobile handset," Leka says.
Actually, many of the key online office suite vendors including Glide, are offering this at this point. Google is in the process of introducing offline access for Google Docs using its Google Gears technology to bring the applications to the desktop. (Unfortunately, I haven't seen the link to set it up yet when I log into Google Docs because they are introducing it in phases.) You can work while offline and when you come in contact with an internet connection, your files sync with your online file system, usually automatically.
But Leka thinks offline access doesn’t go quite far enough, because he says, there is only so much you can do in the browser. For truly advanced functions such as macros and pivot tables, for instance, you need to have a tool that works outside of the browser. “For enterprise customers to fully buy in to the online office suite model, the office applications must also move beyond the inherent limitations of the browser,” he says.
So perhaps Google and Adobe weren’t saying anything we didn’t already know, but the fact these vendors are working toward a goal of giving full online/offline functionality shows that we are moving in a direction where the lines between the desktop and online are becoming increasingly blurred.