Google Gears is a project that, if successful, may be a bigger threat to Microsoft than about any other technology. The premise is simple. It lets you work with online applications even when you aren’t connected to the internet. Right now it seems to be set up to work with Google Reader. This means you can take your Google feeds with you to read when you don’t have an internet connection. When you connect back to the internet, it will sync with the web version and mark everything you read.
This is probably going to be enough to make me switch from News Fire for my feed reader. The ability to read things offline was the main reason I had stayed with a stand alone feed reader instead of using Google’s product. Now I’ll be able to work offline when I’m on a slow connection, use the web version when I’m not at my primary computer, use my Blackberry to read feeds when I’m stuck in line or waiting for an appointment, and still keep everything synced together in one account.
So how does this present a threat to Microsoft? If the technology can be expanded to work with Google’s other applications (Gmail, Wordprocessor, Spreadsheet, Maps, etc.) it will severely encroach on Microsoft’s desktop applications. In the future, it is possible that Google could get their Gears application packaged with PC vendors so that users have a default word processor and spreadsheet that will work with or without an internet connection.
Google Gears can be downloaded as a Firefox plugin on the Mac and it comes as a full standalone application on the PC. It is still in beta, but so far it seems to work fine on OS X for me.
So what do you think? Do you think this has potential or do you think it is going to be limited to feed reading applications?