Google Gears Shifts Toward Windows Mobile


According to a blog post by Google Mobile Team product manager Charles Wiles, the mobile version of Google Gears, Google's open source browser extension that enables developers to create Web apps that run offline, will work the same way on devices as it does on a desktop PC. Applications already written using Google Gears will also transfer seamlessly to mobile devices, though Google was quick to note that applications will only work within that device's own limitations.

Such considerations, like mobile devices' inherently small screens and limited ability to input text may affect the applications. Applications may also suffer under the limitations of the Document Object Model and CSS APIs that reside on mobile devices.

Google Gears mobile is for jet-setters who need on-the-go access to Web applications but who also need the ability to work within those applications if their wireless signal gets interrupted or they are not in an area where wireless service is available. Initially, Google Gears for mobile will work on devices running Microsoft Windows Mobile 5 and 6.

"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," Wiles wrote. "We face the same challenges."

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Wiles said that Google Gears for mobile enables developers to deploy applications directly to mobile browsers rather than develop native applications. He wrote that deploying directly to the browsers simplifies the process by allowing developers to use the same coding skills to create mobile apps. Additionally, the mobile Web applications can work offline, meaning users can leverage them when they are disconnected from the network.

Google Gears for mobile is essentially a mobile browser extension for creating rich Web applications for mobile devices, Wiles wrote. It is a fully functional port of Google Gears v0.2 that can be used to develop offline capability into mobile Web applications.

"You can also create slick and responsive applications by hiding latency issues through controlled caching of data and storage of information between sessions," Wiles wrote. "We're also working to bring Google Gears for mobile to Android and other mobile platforms with capable Web browsers."

So far, there is no word on whether Google will develop a version of Google Gears for mobile to work with the iPhone or smartphones other than those running Windows Mobile or Android.

Wiles noted that a handful of Windows Mobile Web applications already use Google Gears for mobile, including the personal finance service Buxfer and online application provider Zoho. Users of those applications will be asked to install Google Gears for mobile. Once it is installed on the device, Google Gears will remain on the smartphone and users can retrieve data whether they're connected to the network or not.

The news of Google Gears for mobile excited many developers. One person who posted on Google's mobile blog noted, "I've been waiting for this since June 2007."

Others, however, were not immediately sold on the prospect of housing applications on mobile devices that can work offline.

"We need to remember that the mobile Web is not the Internet," one response said. "We want to do different things with the mobile Web than with the Internet. Mobile devices are with us all the time and we can misplace them 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.