On May 31, Google announced Google Gears, an open source browser extension that lets developers insert calls in their web application so it can store application pages offline, store data offline, and perform the necessary tasks to synchronize the online and offline data. CNET pitched the Google vs. Microsoft angle:
Not only is Google strengthening its presence in the developer community, it is pleasing many different factions by releasing Gears as open-source software, rather than proprietary. Microsoft has been criticized for locking developers into its Windows operating system and other Microsoft software. Microsoft has also been struggling to figure out how best to respond to the threat that Web-hosted applications pose to its desktop business.
The Guardian in the UK, the Washington Post (via AP), and others did the same: all claiming that Google Gears is a sign that Google is gaining on Microsoft. But nobody mentioned the philosophical shift that Google Gears signifies. Google has surrendered. Google is finally admitting what Microsoft has been saying for awhile now: the future is not Software as a Service, but rather a combination of software and services. So yes, Google is competing with Microsoft--but finally adopting Microsoft's strategy to do so.
And make no mistake, Google Gears is software and a local database running on the client. In the eWeek story, here's how Bret Taylor, head of Google Developer Programs, characterized Google Gears: "Taylor said he believes Google Gears marks an important step in the evolution of Web applications because it addresses the issue of availability of data and applications when there's no Internet connection available, or when a connection is slow or unreliable." Gee, sounds like software to me.
I, for one, am glad that Google has finally figured out what Microsoft has been saying for awhile, because enterprises--whether Google or Microsoft clients--will win by being able to buy better software.