Three times makes it a meme: Google Gears is an effort by the Internet giant to bring its web-based applications to the desktop. Following a recent trend in the web development space started by Adobe Apollo and Joyent Slingshot; it appears that Google hopes to gain more traction with corporate up-take of their suite of office applications.
As a web developer who also happens to program games and has even tooled around with making desktop applications — I can say with some certainty that it is not difficult to program cross-platform applications. You don’t need to write them in C these days when higher-level languages like Python and Ruby have good interfaces to GUI toolkits like GTK2 and Qt. Many of them even have platform-specific packaging system to allow the developer to compile a windows executable or a mac app easily from the same code-base.
What all these VM based systems like Google Gears and Adobe Apollo will do is allow web developers to build desktop applications that live outside the operating-system’s environment. It will remove the window manager’s chrome and allow these wacky people the ability to bypass interface paradigms that are finally becoming familiar to the general computing populace. I really don’t see how this is a great idea… especially when there are office applications compiled for your native machine already available.
As a final aside, I think this project verifies for me what I’ve been feeling for a while: that even Google, renown for hiring the brightest minds, can give into group-think of the worst kind. It seems like they’ll release anything whether it’s a good idea or not; like loading up a shotgun to solve all your problems. There’s too much, “That would be so cool!” type things that come out of there. Some of them are good, but so many are useless. How deep are their pockets? Can they support this kind of development? They do have the brain-power to develop a killer native office application — why hobble together an intermediary interface?