One of the most key-yet most overlooked-elements of this week's announcement of Google Gears on Mobile Devices technology is its GPS capability and it hints at a forthcoming location API.
Though Google's announcement on March 3 was music to the ears of many because it enables users to continue using mobile applications even when disconnected from the network, that capability, while quite innovative, only scratches the surface of what the new Google Gears capability has to offer.
Indeed, in a blog post and associated video, Charles Wiles, product manager for the Google Mobile Team, said a huge part of the appeal for Google for mobile is that it "allows you to write an application that continues to work even when the phone is disconnected from the network."
However, added Wiles, when most people are offline they don't have access to their contacts, their messages or their GPS location. Enter Google Gears for mobile. In addition to the offline browsing capability, Google developers said the Gears API can provide location information and secure file system access.
The Google Gears on Mobile Devices release is a full Gears release, Wiles said. It is exactly the same as the desktop version. "It's a fully functional port of Google Gears V0.2 that can be used to develop offline capability into your 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."
Meanwhile, Google is working on a Location API, which provides the "geolocation" of a device running a Gears-enabled Web browser. According to the Google Code Web page describing the Location API, the Geolocation API allows Web applications to retrieve the user's current position.
And, according to the Google page, "The API should provide the following features: One-shot position requests (e.g. for recommendations sites-"where am I right now?"); Repeated position updates (e.g. for continuously updating one's location on a map); Ability to get the last-known position cheaply before doing an expensive new request; Compatibility with future use as a singleton in the standard Document Object Model (e.g. window.geolocation); and Support for alternative location service providers."