Google announced the availability of offline functionality in Google Docs today. Just as we announced a few months ago with Zoho Writer, initially the functionality will be available with the word processor. Both Google Docs and Zoho offline functionality is based on Google Gears, an open source initiative from Google.
The offline feature illustrates a couple of the trends going on in online suites worth pointing out: first, standardization of common functionality, arising from openness, second, the speed with which online application suites are maturing.
Nine months ago, we were working on offline functionality for Zoho, based on an internally developed technology. Then Google announced the Gears open source initiative, and we made the decision to standardize on the Gears framework. For us, it was an easy decision, because a browser plug-in is not an area where we want to differentiate, and not an area where we believe customers would appreciate such differentiation. It simply raises the burden on users for them to have to use one plug-in for Google and another for Zoho, and a plug-in from Google is far more likely to be adopted on a larger scale, quicker. Google made the right decision to open source this technology, so that the entire ecosystem can rally around a common standard for offline functionality. We are proud to be early adopters of this technology. We differentiate Zoho on features & functions that add real value to users, rather than on framework/infrastructure level issues, like which plug-in to use for the offline edition.
Second, Google's announcement today illustrates the rapid progress being made in online applications, and how quickly they are emerging as viable competitors to the traditional desktop suites. At Zoho, we are doing a steady stream of updates ourselves, like the mobile offline edition we announced a couple of months ago. It is sometimes hard to believe that the entire space is just over 2 years old, considering how far things have come. This pace will continue, even intensify, over the next few months. Users are going to be big winners of all this competition!