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Google shows offline Gmail app running on iPhone

post #1 of 13
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Google on Wednesday demonstrated how a future version of Gmail could soon run offline on mobile browsers compatible with HTML5, including the iPhone's mobile Safari browser.

Vice president of engineering Vic Gundotra called it a "technical concept" that Google has "never shown publicly before" during a live demo at the 2009 GSMA Mobile World Congress, which can be seen in the video from iPhone Buzz (below).

As the audience watched, the executive brought up Gmail in the mobile version of Safari and then switched his iPhone into Airplane Mode, which disables all forms of wireless transmissions. He then returned to Safari and was able to access and manipulate e-mails from within his Gmail account, making changes that would later synchronize once his iPhone's network access was re-established.

Facilitating this functionality are three emerging Web standards, he explained, namely the W3C Database specification and W3C App Cache specification, both of which fall under the umbrella of HTML5, and both of which are already supported by the latest version of the iPhone Software.

The first provides a local database for a web application to store its data, while the second allows that same application to also store its executable state in memory. They're aided by the W3C GeoLocation specification that enables the application to securely access location information while respecting privacy.

"You'll note that it's very, very fast because it's using that local database," Gundotra said. The same offline Gmail ability was shown on an HTC Magic running Google's own Android mobile operating system. Both versions included features new to mobile Gmail, such as a floating toolbar, multiple selection capability, and label support.



Google is reportedly striving to bring to mobile devices all of the features available in the desktop version of Gmail. In a report on the matter, CNET News.com notes that the move "is significant because it shows how Web-based applications can bypass the control that particular companies such as Apple or Microsoft have over a computing technology."

For example, Apple currently regulates which software applications make their way to the iPhone and iPod touch through the strict regulations of its App Store. But with these emerging HTML5 standards, many of those same applications could be written for the browser, where they'd be accessible to a broad range of devices, including those not manufactured by the Cupertino-based company.

Apple already offers iPhone web developers an unpublicized function call that allows Web apps to be saved to the home screen and then launched in full-screen mode. Although these apps still run within the Safari wrapper, they behave like native iPhone apps.
post #2 of 13
That's quite cool, but unfortunately web apps are extremely difficult to advertise, whereas the App Store in iTunes takes care of that for you.

Unless you're a massive company like Google, that is.
post #3 of 13
I like proof of concepts, but does anyone actually use the web-based Gmail over Mail or a 3rd-party mail app?
Dick Applebaum on whether the iPad is a personal computer: "BTW, I am posting this from my iPad pc while sitting on the throne... personal enough for you?"
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Dick Applebaum on whether the iPad is a personal computer: "BTW, I am posting this from my iPad pc while sitting on the throne... personal enough for you?"
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post #4 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

Google is reportedly striving to bring to mobile devices all of the features available in the desktop version of Gmail. In a report on the matter, CNET News.com notes that the move "is significant because it shows how Web-based applications can bypass the control that particular companies such as Apple or Microsoft have over a computing technology."

I may miss the obvious, but what is the point here? SMTP, POP and IMAP are standards (except for Gmail IMAP of course), and there is a standards compliant email client on the iPhone, it uses the very same Web Kit to render HTML, it stores messages and attachments for offline use, handles POP/IMAP/Exchange/MobileMe, if it will at some point support the handling of iCal calendar invitations properly... what else do I need? How is Apple controlling the computing technology by including a standards compliant email client and how much control is Google gaining over a computing technology by offering a free service that can barely be met by most commercial offers?

Seems like a lot of effort to offer something that is already there?
post #5 of 13
This is the second video I've seen of GSMA Mobile World Congress that seem to have used iMovie '09.
post #6 of 13
The next version of Safari for OS X will also allow you to save web sites as stand-alone applications as well. All of this is based off the proposed HTML5 standards, which Apple is pushing hard to implement and adopt for these same reasons. Unlike the promise of Java, these web-based applications will give us true cross-platform compatibility as long as those who build the web engines remain focused on standards. So far the WebKit and Gecko teams have strived towards building standard complaint browsers. Although I believe WebKit is probably the most dominant player as more platforms support it.

Building these standards compliant web applications will only help to erode away IE's dominance in the browser wars. Especially since IE's JavaScript performance is abysmal compared to others'. People will be able to download a WebKit of Gecko based browser to use the web applications and use it for general based browsing, replacing IE as their default browser.
Disclaimer: The things I say are merely my own personal opinion and may or may not be based on facts. At certain points in any discussion, sarcasm may ensue.
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Disclaimer: The things I say are merely my own personal opinion and may or may not be based on facts. At certain points in any discussion, sarcasm may ensue.
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post #7 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

I like proof of concepts, but does anyone actually use the web-based Gmail over Mail or a 3rd-party mail app?

Quote:
Originally Posted by dreyfus2 View Post

I may miss the obvious, but what is the point here? SMTP, POP and IMAP are standards (except for Gmail IMAP of course), and there is a standards compliant email client on the iPhone

Seems like a lot of effort to offer something that is already there?


This is a proof of concept using a mail client for the demonstration. It could very well be anything and it would bypass Apple's AppStore and application DRM.

The point was to show the same application running offline on different platforms. For instance, I could write a shopping list application using these standards, it could potentially run on iPhone, Android and Palm Pre devices without needing any changes.
Disclaimer: The things I say are merely my own personal opinion and may or may not be based on facts. At certain points in any discussion, sarcasm may ensue.
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Disclaimer: The things I say are merely my own personal opinion and may or may not be based on facts. At certain points in any discussion, sarcasm may ensue.
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post #8 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by dreyfus2 View Post

I may miss the obvious, but what is the point here? SMTP, POP and IMAP are standards (except for Gmail IMAP of course), and there is a standards compliant email client on the iPhone, it uses the very same Web Kit to render HTML, it stores messages and attachments for offline use, handles POP/IMAP/Exchange/MobileMe, if it will at some point support the handling of iCal calendar invitations properly... what else do I need? How is Apple controlling the computing technology by including a standards compliant email client and how much control is Google gaining over a computing technology by offering a free service that can barely be met by most commercial offers?

Seems like a lot of effort to offer something that is already there?

I agree. There seems to be a lot of circular logic going around. Mainframes with terminals used to be common. Then computers got powerful enough that each computer was independent. Then they started moving all of the apps to the cloud. Now, they are trying to bring the cloud back to personal computers. Given this trend, I think they'll start advertising laptops as being independent clouds of computing.
post #9 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by mjtomlin View Post

The point was to show the same application running offline on different platforms. For instance, I could write a shopping list application using these standards, it could potentially run on iPhone, Android and Palm Pre devices without needing any changes.

Now, that is even more optimistic :-) All these devices have different screen resolutions, different input methods etc. The geometry model in CSS is quite less flexible than the ones in most programming environments I do not really see, how HTML 5 and CSS will be able to deliver the "write once - run everwhere" experience that Java, Flash and others have consistently failed to deliver, especially since it will take years until compliant browsers will have a significant market share, not even mentioning the availability of sufficient development environments (CSS is around since 1996 and the support in most IDEs is still rather mediocre).
post #10 of 13
Since you cannot easily search older mail on the iPhone, at times I've used web based Google Mail on my iPhone to conduct such searches.

Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

I like proof of concepts, but does anyone actually use the web-based Gmail over Mail or a 3rd-party mail app?
post #11 of 13
These cloud services are primarily being developed for mobile devices, as you see in the Google demonstration.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Quevar View Post

Given this trend, I think they'll start advertising laptops as being independent clouds of computing.
post #12 of 13
Mobile websites work fine on different mobile devices whose browsers fully support HTML.

Times have changed Internet Explorer no longer has the dominance it once had. Its loosing marktshare by the quarter. In January IE's marketshare was 67%. If IE continues to loose marketshare at its current rate its expected to be down to 50% by the end of the year.

Mobile internet devices are growing several times faster than the PC. IE has no influence in that market at all. Currently webkit dominates the mobile internet market and is leading standards compliance.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dreyfus2 View Post

I do not really see, how HTML 5 and CSS will be able to deliver the "write once - run everwhere" experience that Java, Flash and others have consistently failed to deliver, especially since it will take years until compliant browsers will have a significant market share, not even mentioning the availability of sufficient development environments (CSS is around since 1996 and the support in most IDEs is still rather mediocre).
post #13 of 13
the phone is the best platform to deploy a database... who's arguing?
why only was I so dumb to have been telling myself that humble 8gb of storage would still be good enough for some more coming years, while that li-polymer battery would be anyway dying of frequent recharges

We mean Apple no harm.

People are lovers, basically. -- Engadget livebloggers at the iPad mini event.

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We mean Apple no harm.

People are lovers, basically. -- Engadget livebloggers at the iPad mini event.

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