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Google Gears: open source tool for Web apps

Google is using its first worldwide Developer Day on Friday (NZ time) to launch Google Gears, an open source technology for building web applications that can work offline.

In addition the company will unveil plans to work with other vendors to mould standards that would provide developers with consistent APIs for building offline functionality into web-based applications.

The free Google Gears technology builds on the existing programming models for the web, and adds new Javascript APIs for data storage, application caching and multi-threading features, the company said. The Gears tool will work with all browsers that run on the Windows, Macintosh and Linux operating systems, it added.

An early version of Google Gears is now available, the company said.

The Google product joins a burgeoning group of technologies, including the Apollo tool from Adobe Systems. and the Silverlight technology from Microsoft, which aim to make "the client side of web applications compelling again," said Jeffrey Hammond, an analyst with Forrester.

Indeed, Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, said in a statement that Google Gears is "tackling a key limitation of the browser in order to make it a stronger platform for deploying all types of applications and enabling a better user experience in the cloud".

Hammond said it has been several years since the industry has seen "significant innovation around the core of the browser itself," which Google is aiming to do with Code Gears.

"In theory, if this works you'll be able to have a browser and nothing else [to] do the things that now requires Apollo on the desktop or Silverlight in a [media] player," Hammond said.

To highlight how the new Gears technology can work, Google on Friday (NZ time) is making its Google Reader feed reader available with offline capabilities that were created using the new technology.