Google’s Vic Gundotra, vice president of engineering at the search giant, this morning demonstrated an offline version of the GMail web-app. Right now it’s a technical concept, but what it means for developers is that any browser compliant with HTML5 standards – for instance the webkit browser engine which the iPhone, Palm Pre and Android platform browsers are all based on – will be able to support the technology, but also that developers can code a single offline webapp for any HTML5 compliant device.
What that means is not only offline access to your email – courtesy of HTML5’s AppCache and Database standards – together with a new toolbar that follows email browsing, plus label support. Gundotra demonstrated the same fully-functional GMail app running on both the iPhone 3G and the new Android-based HTC Magic, with the same GUI, controls and – of most interest to developers – no requirement to code special versions.
Gundotra also demonstrated a version of Google Maps running on the Palm Pre – which he called “arguably one of my most favorite devices – that has been totally coded in HTML 5. The application ran just as a native app would, complete with multitouch support, full searching and all the usual Maps functionality.
Finally, Gundotra revealed that Google has been working on incorporating some of the typical features of mobile devices – such as GPS, cameras and always-on connectivity. Google Latitude, for instance, takes advantage of GPS, and last week 1m users signed up to the service. Meanwhile on the iPhone 3G he demonstrated the integration of voice control, movement through the accelerometer and GPS in a voice search app. The voice-search was triggered just by picking up the iPhone and holding it to his ear and asking for “pictures of cathedrals in Spain”, which the handset recognized and displayed the image search results.