Google Finally Enables Offline Access for Gmail
Google's long-awaited offline access for Gmail is here, bringing a sigh of relief to users of Google's messaging and collaboration software. Google Apps Standard Edition users will be able to access it immediately with a few steps, while consumers will see a more gradual rollout. The move should put Google on a more level playing field in cloud computing versus Microsoft, Yahoo Zimbra, Zoho and others with e-mail clients that already provide offline access.Google Jan. 27 reached a milestone in its competition against Microsoft with the introduction of offline access for Gmail, a long-awaited feature the company is rolling out to consumers and Google Apps users in the United States and United Kingdom.
In Web application parlance, offline access is when users can access application data even when they're not connected to the Web. Google will soon follow Gmail offline access with offline access to Google Calendar. This will initially be available to Google Apps users only.
Created in Google's Gmail Labs, offline access will enable Gmail to load in a Web browser without a Web connection. Users will be able to read, archive or write messages. Users can hit send on composed messages, which will remain in the Gmail outbox.
When the user's computer reconnects online, Gmail will push the messages from its queue toward their recipients, Rajen Sheth, senior product manager for Google Apps, told eWEEK before the launch Jan. 27. Google provides a video demo of offline Gmail access here.
Built with the Google Gears browser technology used to let Google Reader, Google Docs and Zoho Mail render data offline, offline access for Gmail is immediately available for Google Apps Standard Edition users and consumers beginning the evening of Jan. 27. Users must download Google Gears to access it.
"We wanted to, with Gears, make it a seamless experience so that users don't have to download a specialized client or go through a different experience than what they're used to with the Web browser," Sheth explained.
Offline access for Gmail consumer and business users is a major step for Google, which is trying to compete with Microsoft, Yahoo's Zimbra and other e-mail providers by making Gmail as robust as possible for its tens of millions of users.
This is particularly important for users who are trying to access their application data in areas with spotty Internet connections, or with no Web connections at all. Air travel, for example, tends to be the biggest stumbling block for applications that don't let their users access data offline.