For two weeks earlier this month, I spent all of my time on Google’s platform. Google Docs, Chrome OS, Android, and Google Drive became the mainstays of my vocabulary. But in all of my usage and fondness for some of the great things in the platform, there were still holes. Gaping, obtrusive, unavoidable holes.
With today’s announcement at Google’s I/O conference, it looks like Google is plugging these holes.
There are a number of big features that have come out of Google today like the Compute Engine for developers and a partnership with Best Buy. But by far the most important one is the inclusion of Offline Google Docs. For those who don’t know, Google Docs is the collaborative Web-based document editor that Google supplies for free to the world. The problem up to now has been that the applications only work when you are connected to the Internet, which means that working on airplanes is less than ideal.
To remedy this problem, which has a profound effect on the Web-reliant operating system Chrome OS, Google has been trying to make it as easy as possible to connect to the Internet. With Verizon Wireless access built into Chromebooks, it’s one step towards the “Internet everywhere” dream. Still, there are places where there simply isn’t Internet, which effectively turns the Chromebook into a Chromebrick.
Today, with the announcement of Offline Docs, this situation is changed. When you are working on a document and lose your Internet connection, you can continue to work, with the changes being synced to the main Google servers when you get back online. It’s a big step forward for the product.
In fact, it’s nearly impossible to underestimate how big of a deal Offline Docs is for Google as a company, and more importantly, as a platform. Offline Docs puts the platform up against the only thing that Microsoft Office still had firmly in its field, and the fact that Google has implemented it in a nearly seamless way is just the icing on the cake. If I’m at Microsoft today, then I’m really worried about this.
Offline Docs isn’t the only hole that Google is plugging. One of the biggest parts of Google’s Web platform is iOS, despite the fact that Apple is Google’s largest competitor. As a result, Google is continuing to fully support it in ways that even Apple-frenemies like Microsoft won’t.
Today, Google announced Chrome for iOS, which doesn’t run on the same rendering engine that Chrome runs on desktop machines, but does provide all of the syncing tools needed to make it an attractive application. On top of this, Google finally rolled out Google Drive for iOS, which means that Google fully supports iOS, and signals that this trend will continue.
This is a nice touch for iOS users that use Google products, but don’t want to use Android. But more importantly, these additions can serve as a gateway drug for iOS users. If you’re using an 80 percent baked Google product on iOS, and it has become central to how you do your work, then there’s an increased chance that you’ll switch over to Android for your smartphone, or at the very least Chrome for your desktop browser. The change won’t happen in droves, but it likely will be noticeable.
On top of these two pieces of news, one additional feature that Google announced today is what can only be called a continuous client. Chrome will sync tabs, and browser history across devices, which means that the frustration of having to copy links between devices when you’re on the move from a desktop to a mobile phone is now gone.
What all of this means for Google as a company is that Google is plugging the holes in the ecosystem. That’s good news for everyone, because greater competition means better products.