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Is Zoho Beating Google at its Own Offline Game?
AdventNet today added
offline capabilities to Zoho Writer, the word processor component in its
Web-based office suite. This makes Zoho Writer the first online office
app to use Google Gears, the open-source libraries for offline Ajax that
in June -- something that sounds particularly impressive given that
Google's own Ajax-based Docs & Spreadsheets utility competes directly with Zoho
and doesn't yet work with Gears. Zoho also scores over Google in the
scope of its suite, targeting enterprise users with Web-based
applications that include CRM, conferencing and project management.
But there's a big catch, which highlights the immaturity of offline Ajax
applications in general. Right now, the offline version of Writer
doesn't by itself let yet users write anything while offline: It's
read-only, so users have to reconnect to the network if they want to
make changes to a document.
Similarly, the only Google application yet to use Gears is Google
Reader, which downloads RSS feeds for offline viewing. Like document
viewing in Zoho, this simply downloads content from a Web service
for caching on the local PC, so it doesn't have to handle the awkward
issue of version management and synchronization -- something not built
into Google Gears. With Web-based office suites aimed at collaborative
editing and document sharing, taking files offline can easily result in
multiple forks floating around.
Zoho plans to add full offline editing capabilities to Writer, as well
as extend the use of Google Gears to its other products. In the
meantime, Zoho offers plugins for Microsoft Office that enable Word and
Excel to connect directly to the Zoho Web service. Competitor ThinkFree already
offers a Web-based Office suite that can work offline, though this is
based on Java rather than Ajax.
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