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Google’s Offline Blunder

Google’s Offline Blunder

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Nothing but the web” is a slogan that Google has pushed to customers for several years. They want customers to believe productivity happens when there is an Internet connection. The “nothing but the web” approach serves Google well by feeding its own online advertising revenue.-- Their customers and their data are online as much as possible, with customers viewing more ads. Yet "nothing but the web" is simply too restrictive to meet customers' productivity needs. Guess what is the top requested feature in Google Apps? – It is offline capability. Google's recent release of offline capabilities for Google Apps is an about-face in their “100% web” position. After all, not only are they equipping their customers to use something other than the web, they released their capabilities via client software, which they have also panned.

Google Offline = Productivity Loss
Without any guidance to customers, Google abruptly shut down Gears and shifted investment to a HTML5 based solution. After keeping customers in the dark for over 18 months, Google finally tried to close the offline requirement gap… but did they close it? First of all, the new offline solution requires Chrome 13 or higher, which is only usable for an estimated 22.2% of browser users. Next, comparing Google Apps' latest offline solution with its previous solution, Google Gears, it is glaringly obvious that the new solution took many steps backwards. Here are a few limitations from their new, offline solution:

Email and Calendar
- Requires Chrome Browser13 or higher
- Inconsistent Interface from Gmail
- Limited number of messages stored
- No control over which emails are available
- No printing capability
- No rich text email

 Online Example                                           Offline Example


- Cannot create/edit meetings or appointments
- Cannot see calendar invites in email

  Online Example                                   Offline Example


- Requires Chrome Browser13 or higher
- Separate application distinct from doc list and individual productivity applications

  Online Example                                                 Offline Example


- Read only; no editing capability
- No access to Google Presentations, Drawings, or Forms
- No access to many industry standard file formats including Microsoft Office files (binary, OMXL or ODF documents), PDF, or images stored in the Docs List.
- Missing images, comments/conversations, highlighting; lack file fidelity from Google's native documents

   Online Example                                                 Offline Example


Finally, given that this offline solution is in beta, customers can expect limited support for any problems they encounter.

Google's offline announcement seems like the result of a “rush job”. Envision a group of engineers huddled at their desks while their program manager frantically cuts major features from the release in order to deliver something this summer, the re-promised delivery timeframe for offline access. Or, maybe these core features weren’t even on the PM's list at all!

Are Business Needs a Priority to Google?
It's awfully hard to deliver Google ads when a customer is not on the web. With 97% of its revenues coming from advertising, Google has an ad monetization-led business strategy. So, with that strategy, how much time and engineering expertise would it likely invest in offline technologies? Indeed, it took Google over eighteen months to re-deliver offline capabilities to its Google Apps customers, proving that it has made, and will continue to make, very minimal investment in offline products.

Business users need not only offline access to a tool, but support for a dynamic set of usage scenarios; they use a range of browsers and an array of both cloud and desktop applications. As a stakeholder in your business' success, how much can you trust a company, whose track record has been focused in online-only use cases with delayed product releases and erratic product support plans, to consistently deliver and support core business capabilities you need long-term?

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