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Today we're starting to roll out an experimental feature in Gmail Labs that should help fill in those gaps: offline Gmail. So even if you're offline, you can open your web browser, go to gmail.com, and get to your mail just like you're used to.
If the address book is part of the offline setup, I might be sold. It essentially means that I have a synched up desktop client that I can access from any computer. Not too bad. I do wish gmail had actual IMAP mailboxes instead of those stupid tags. If it had that, I'd definitely be sold, but it drives me nuts that everything comes straight to my inbox. I like to filter and sort and get mailing lists, payment confirmations and so on out of the inbox right off.
Not much use really, is it? It's alpha. It would be nice to see them get it up to beta like the rest of the gmail ;-)
Most definitely at alpha status right now.
But we'll probably never know for sure!
While you're right about labs products in general, I reckon anything to do with Chrome and Gears is part of the Master Plan (one-upping M$), rather than a simple whim - it's serious stuff, leading in 'on line' software, while undercutting traditional M$ offline stuff..
That's true and that does give me hope. I think rather than simply one-upping MS, Gears for all Google products shifts the load from Google servers to your computer. The more program logic they can get to run on your machine and the more data that gets cached, the less the Google servers work. That makes services cheaper to provide, which is a competitive advantage against not just MS, but everyone (but especially MS who already has such direct access to so many computers).