Why Google's Offline App Strategy will Benefit Chrome OS
Now that Chromebooks--portable computers based on Google's Chrome OS--are maturing, it's easier to gauge the prospects for Google's first-ever operating system. As Jon Buys discussed here on OStatic, these portables have a number of strong points. However, there are criticisms appearing about them, too, and some of them echo ones made here on OStatic before. Specifically, Chrome OS imposes a very two-fisted, cloud-centric model for using data and applications, where traditional, local storage of data and apps is discouraged. Recently, Google has sought to close this gap with its own apps, allowing users to work with its Gmail, Calendar and Docs apps offline. Will these moves help boost Chrome OS and use of Chromebooks? In enterprises, they may do so.
Google officials have explained the logic behind allowing offline usage of key Google apps in this post, where they write:
"Today’s world doesn’t slow down when you’re offline and it’s a great feeling to be productive from anywhere, on any device, at any time. We’re pushing the boundaries of modern browsers to make this possible, and while we hope that many users will already find today’s offline functionality useful, this is only the beginning. Support for offline document editing and customizing the amount of email to be synchronized will be coming in the future. We also look forward to making offline access more widely available when other browsers support advanced functionality (like background pages)."
While Google had previously announced its intent to deliver this offline functionality, the need for it was undoubtedly accelerated by some of the criticisms of the way Chrome OS forces users to work almost exclusively in the cloud. It's also not accidental that the offline capabilities are focused on Google applications that enterprises care about: mail, document-creation apps, etc.
Guillermo Garron has gone so far as to reverse his previous criticisms of Chrome OS based on the new offline functionality, as seen in his post here. He writes:
"This is something specially good for Chromebooks. Now they are not just new toys, they can be real productive tools…now Chromebooks are ready for Prime Time at least to do what they were designed for, with no limitations."
Researchers at Microsoft have produced data before that shows that most people use a maximum of five software applications on a regular basis. In delivering offline functionality for mail, document creation, and other absolutely key tasks for working people, Google is hedging the cloud-only bet that it made with Chrome OS upon its debut. It's the right move for Google to be making, and is likely to help win over some enterprises that would find working exclusively in the cloud to be too limiting.