Google's Gmail is starting to offer email access and reasonable functionality, even when a user is offline. Folks will still need to adjust their settings and download the free Gears program that makes it possible, but once they're all set up, Gmail will have a local cache -- continuously updated -- of your email from Google's servers. In other words, if your Internet connection temporarily dies, you will still be able to retrieve old messages and write new ones. Naturally, you will still need to re-establish Web access for outgoing mail to actually get through, but it's a welcome new feature.
Google's Calendar offering is getting a similar experimental makeover.
Connectivity has always been the Achilles' heel of cloud computing. Whether it's companies turning to salesforce.com
As Google and others begin to close the connectivity gap, does Microsoft stand a chance? Of course it does. The real question is if Microsoft will need to discount its premium prices, given the growing free -- or nearly free -- alternatives.
Google's move also raises the stakes in providing Web mail services. Gmail still has a way to go to catch up to its three largest email competitors -- Yahoo!
The online competition is getting so hot that it's boiling into your offline world, too.
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