Google Gears will bring offline processing to AJAX applications, which promises to be a step towards closing the last big delta between traditional desktop and Web 2.0 applications.
Web-to-desktop convergence is a very interesting topic and one that is bound to change the way we think about software packaging and delivery, which has big implications for software-as-a-service. The driver for convergence is that consumers want the best of both desktop and web applications. I wrote about this last year.
The default distinction between “Web” and “desktop” apps is based on old assumptions. The former typically means something that runs in a browser and needs a server all the time. The latter typically means something that runs on the desktop and doesn’t use the Internet. These distinctions are now outdated. Most meaningful apps these days use the Internet. Yes, even MS Word does. So, the distinction really is about (a) implementation and (b) connectivity.
I built my first “Web 2.0 desktop convergent” web app in 1998. It used WDDX for passing data back and forth and storing it locally. The app only ran in IE because it relied on file system access COM objects for offline access.
The best approach for building rich, convergent Web applications that I know of is Adobe Apollo. There are many examples of convergent applications that leverage Apollo. I recently wrote about Web widgets coming to the desktop. It’s great that Google and Adobe are thinking about how Gears and Apollo can work together.
I’d be interested to learn more about Gears.