Shifting Google Gears to mobile

Monday, March 3, 2008 | 10:51 PM



Ever use a mobile web application and suddenly lose your cell connection? That's happened to me many times. If you've shared my pain, you'll be excited to know that we've launched Google Gears for mobile, which lets users access Gears-enabled mobile web apps offline. Initially available for Internet Explorer Mobile on Windows Mobile 5 and 6 devices, mobile web app developers have already started integrating Gears for mobile into their online services.

Take Zoho and Buxfer, for example: Zoho is a powerful suite of web-based productivity applications, while Buxfer is an innovative personal finance web application that helps you track your money. With Google Gears for mobile integrated into mobile Zoho and Buxfer, you can now access these web applications even when your phone is disconnected from the mobile web. Stuck on a plane? No problem — you can still read your docs on your mobile with Zoho Writer Mobile offline. Want to buy that new plasma TV, but can't remember how much is in your account? Check your balance with Buxfer's mobile web application, even if there is no cell phone signal. Try them out on your Windows Mobile 6 device by going to m.buxfer.com or mobile.zoho.com.

When you first access mobile Buxfer or Zoho Writer on your Windows Mobile device and go offline, you will be asked to install Google Gears for mobile. Once installed, Gears sits happily on your phone helping you stay connected to your data -- even when you lose your network connection.

If you're a developer who's interested in creating mobile web applications using Google Gears for mobile you can find out more information on our developer site. Finally, if you're not a Windows Mobile user, stay tuned -- we're working to roll out Google Gears for other platforms with capable web browsers, including Android.

17 comments:

Jono said...

I hope the other platforms include S60! I'm sure I remember reading that it's the most popular platform outside North America.

Shonzilla said...

Is Google working on a version of Google Gears for Google Android platform or you're relying on Google Android Challenge contestants?

Cheers!
Shonzilla

p.s. Can anyone beat the number of Googles in a single, rather normal sentence? ;-)

CJ said...

I've been waiting for this since June 2007. :-)
http://www.cjmillisock.com/2007/06/why-safari-on-iphone-is-awesome.html

This is great!

Giff Gfroerer, i2SMS said...

Giff Gfroerer, i2SMS.

We need to remember that the mobile web is NOT the internet. We want to do different things with the mobile web then with the Internet. Mobile devices are with us all the time and we can misplace them. However, the PC at home is where it is.

How many times have we heard of a laptop being misplaced and all the confidential information on the PC being compromised? Mobile devices are lost on a factor of 10x compared to laptops.

Though this is going to be great for most applications, we must also remember that being able to see ones balances and the like can cause great problems if the mobile device is lost or stolen.

Tommy Freestyle said...

Not to be that guy, but would this include the iPhone?

halr9000 said...

Maybe it's just me but I don't get it. I think that this adds an unnecessary layer to what should be a native app experience rather than a web application. You've already made Google Maps as a native app for Windows Mobile, why not continue in this vein for Mail and everything else? Yes, I understand how Gears enables offline stuff for Google as well as for third parties, but offline is so last century. Unlimited mobile data plans are pretty cheap (if you're with Sprint, anyway--come on other carriers!), there's no need for offline at all unless you live in the boonies.

Subodh Gupta said...

So is it already enabled for Google reader?

Brad Neuberg said...

Hi everyone, thanks for the nice comments on Google Gears for mobile. Individual responses below.

@Giff: Good comments about stolen laptops and devices. I created something called Dojo SQL that encrypts and decrypts the data stored offline in Gears. Gears provides threads to JavaScript, so that you can do things like encryption without blocking the browser. These threads, called worker pools, are also on Google Gears for mobile, so someone could encrypt their data stored locally if they wanted to. I'd love to see someone do this with the new Windows Mobile release! Who wants to knock out a quick open source library to do this and put it on code.google.com?

@halr9000: Hi there. You raise two points: why add new abilities to mobile web apps rather than just make them native; and why is offline necessary on mobile devices?

For your first question, it is _much_ easier to create mobile web applications than native ones. The mobile space is very fragmented. Being able to create consistent mobile applications that are web-based (and use Gear's open source abilities to augment this with offline access, greater reliability, etc.) is much easier than creating many different native applications. Further, getting permission from carriers to install native apps is very difficult. Something like Google Gears for mobile makes it much easier for entrepreneurial firms like Buxfer and Zoho to innovate and get their software on mobile phones without having to get executive-level buy-in from carriers. Sure Google can get Google Maps native installed on mobile phones, but what about other companies? We should all be able to innovate in the mobile space.

On the question of whether offline is useful on mobile phones, if I want my applications to be in the mobile browser than I need them to be available even with intermittent network connections. How often does your cellular connection drop? Mine drops alot.

@Subodh: Google Reader is not tied into Google Gears for mobile yet. Good question.

Best,
Brad Neuberg
Google Gears

halr9000 said...

@Brad, I don't disagree with your aims, they all sound good. I just feel that native apps offer more and are for the most part, worth it. I'm a big Gmail and Bloglines user, so I'm not a purist. But it just doesn't always work, and it sorta feels like Gears is a shoehorn. But--if anybody can make it work well, it's probably you guys. :)

As far as carrier software, I suppose that only applies if your aim is to get things pre-installed when a handset is shipped. Thereafter, the carrier has less control, and that control is only lessening as time goes on, thank God. With few exceptions, Windows Mobile devices usually don't restrict "certified" application installs, although I know the capability is there and some carriers to try their darnedest. That's what cooked ROMs are for. :)

And as far as my connection goes...I can't say that I've ever noticed a data drop in the same way that you immediately notice voice drops. Maybe Sprint's 3G data network inherently fares better than the voice connection, I don't know. It has not been an issue to date, but I do live near a large metro (Atlanta).

sygyzy said...

I know it's probably just me but I don't really find this announcement that clear. I have Gears installed on my web browsers (all three of them across diffrent systems) and I think it's a great idea for offline browsing (in particular, for Reader). I don't understand how this has been implemented for Mobile, though. I installed Gears of Mobile and then at the end, didn't know what to do with it. I visited Buxfer on my Mobile device. Cool, that works. Can't tell that it uses Gears or anything. It just worked as expected. What else works offline and how can it tell it's offline? It'd be cool if you can just mark yourself offline in case you may be connected to a tower with poor reception. What about Reader, Docs, etc for mobile? Does this mean I can read my RSS feeds without a data connection?

halr9000 said...

@sygyzy, check out the video linked to from Lifehacker, they do a good job explaining it. I think that's the point though--you are not supposed to tell much difference. The guy had to manually disconnect his data connection and even then there was no difference.

mike said...

Google Gears for my mobile phone seems to have screwed up windows and i had to do a hard reboot clearing out all my data. I have a Samsung i760 with Windows Mobile 6 CE OS 5.2.979 (Build 17233.0.1.1)
Processor ARM920T S3C2442.

Lawrence Chang said...

@mike, please submit a report on the Google Gears issues list so we can follow up with you on this. Thanks.

Editor: Vasantrao Koparday said...

@Brad,
I am waiting for google gears for my Nokia.

Lost/stolen mobiles again.
I wonder how safe and feasible would the worker pools encryption of data be for symbian system.

I believe that Nokia has built in poor lock PIN code system. The data is vulnerable.

Regards,
Koparday

Rufan-Redi said...

@halr9000 Windows Mobile already supports Gmail both POP3 and IMAP. I use it every day (several times a day in fact) and love it!

I agree a native app will usually give you a better UI and access outside the browser sandbox but at the same time sometimes it's quicker/ easier to knock up a simple webapp and Gears is great to extend that for when you're not connected.

halr9000 said...

@Rufan-Redi,

I'm not a fan of IMAP in general, and when using it on gmail it messes with your labels in a bad way I've found. Aside from that it's slow as molasses and POP is no better. Have you tried push mail w/Exchange? It's really nice. Google should do as Zimbra did and provide an actual connector that appears to the WinMo device as an Exchange server. Transparent--no new client software to install.

Michael said...

I'm sorry but I downloaded Gears to my Tilt and except for adding a Gears setting to Menu - Tools it has done absolutly nothing. There are no allowed sites and no denied sites when I open the setting menu. And not one application such as the Google Reader or Picasa has asked to be allowed. What is the use of this program as so far it does nothing on the Tilt/