Millions of people enjoy free Web-based software programs that deliver e-mail, news and many other services. But those programs are available to users only when they are online.
Now Google is hoping to help make many of those programs, among them its own free Web applications like Gmail and Docs and Spreadsheets, available offline, say when a user is on an airplane.
In doing so, Google will more openly challenge Microsoft and its office productivity tools, like Excel and Word, which users must buy for hundreds of dollars.
That rivalry was heightened on Wednesday when Google released a set of tools to software programmers, which it calls Google Gears, that addresses what is perhaps the single most critical shortcoming of Web-based software.
The tools can be used by all programmers, whether they work for Google or not, to enhance their own Web-based programs for offline use. The company is making the technology available in an open-source model, so programmers can use it free, test its abilities and extend them as necessary to fit their needs.
"The whole idea of extending browser capabilities to offline is something that a lot of people are going to get pretty excited about," said David Mitchell Smith, a vice president at Gartner Research.
Google is introducing Gears during a coming-out party of sorts.
The company is playing host to what it calls its first "developer day," an event held around the world at which Google will present itself not as the world's most-used search engine, or as the biggest Internet advertising company, or even as the creator of applications like Gmail, but rather as the provider of tools that others can use to build their own programs.
It is an event that underscored Google's evolution from its roots as a search engine into a company that hopes to become central to a new way of computing in which software is delivered over the Web, often free and supported by ads, rather than bought and installed on users' PCs.
This evolution sharpens Google's rivalry with Microsoft and others who are trying to provide both new Web-based software and technology building blocks for Web programmers.
Google has been among the most enthusiastic proponents of this new computing model, and its executives say it will help usher in faster innovation because many Web applications can be created quickly by cobbling together existing components created by others.
"It is a different model," Google chief executive Eric Schmidt said in an interview. "The rate at which you can build applications is an order of magnitude faster because the components all fit together so quickly."
Google hopes other companies will use Gears to extend their own software and services.
Some Microsoft rivals, including Adobe and Mozilla, which is behind the Firefox Web browser, are collaborating with Google on the technology.
But it could also help Google's rivals. If the Gears technology proves effective, scores of software programs, including Yahoo Mail and Microsoft's Hotmail, might one day be used offline to read e-mail messages and to compose new ones.
The new e-mail messages would be sent the next time a user connects to the Internet.
Google said Gears was in early stages of development. "This is not a solution that is going to work with everything on Day 1," Smith said.
WHEELING AND DEALING? Hou You-yi, Ko Wen-je, Eric Chu and Ma Ying-jeou are under investigation for allegedly offering bribes for the other side to drop out of the race Taipei prosecutors have started an investigation into allegations that four top politicians involved in attempts to form a “blue-white” presidential ticket have contravened election regulations. Listed as defendants are Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate and New Taipei City Mayor Hou You-yi (侯友宜), KMT Chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫), former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) of the KMT and Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) Chairman and presidential candidate Ko Wen-je (柯文哲). The case stemmed from judicial complaints filed last month with the Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office alleging that the KMT (blue) and the TPP (white) had engaged in bribery by offering money or other enticements
COUNTER DISINFORMATION: More engagement and media literacy are needed to push back against misinformation and claims that the US is an unreliable partner, the AIT director said The US is “confident” that Taiwan does not face an imminent threat of a Chinese invasion, American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Director Sandra Oudkirk told a US public radio show, adding that Washington remains committed to defensively arming the nation. She made the comment during an interview on All Things Considered, broadcast on Friday on US-based National Public Radio. “There is an important distinction between making plans and training troops, and getting ready to do something,” Oudkirk said, on whether she thinks Beijing plans to attack Taiwan in the near future. Chinese officials have told Washington that “their preference is for peaceful reunification,
EXPOSED: Some Taipei wardens reported joining the trips out of peer pressure, while others said they were relieved it was made public so they could refuse, a city councilor said Nearly 30 percent of Taipei borough wardens have joined group tours to China that were partially funded by the Chinese government, leading prosecutors probing potential Chinese interference in January’s elections to question local officials, an investigation showed. Democratic Progressive Party Taipei City councilors Chien Shu-pei (簡舒培) and Chen E-jun (陳怡君) have reported cases of Taipei borough wardens inviting residents to join inexpensive privately organized group tours to China that were partially funded by the Chinese government. The six-day trips reportedly cost NT$10,000 to NT$15,000, the councilors said. An investigation by the Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper) showed that nearly 30 percent
ELIGIBLE FOR JANUARY: All presidential candidates and their running mates meet the requirements to run for office, and none hold dual citizenship, the CEC said Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) Legislator and vice presidential candidate Cynthia Wu (吳欣盈) is working with the Central Election Commission (CEC) to resolve issues with her financial disclosure statement, a spokesman for the candidate said yesterday, after the commission published the statements of all three presidential candidates and their running mates, while confirming their eligibility to run in the Jan. 13 election. Wu’s office spokesman, Chen Yu-cheng (陳宥丞), said the candidate encountered unforeseen difficulties disclosing her husband’s finances due to being suddenly thrust into the campaign. She is also the first vice presidential nominee to have a foreign spouse, complicating the reporting of