Offline But Not out of Luck

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    Why Enterprise Software Must Evolve In the Age of Apps

    No doubt, areas with cellular and/or Wi-Fi coverage are growing. Attention must be paid to the bypassed areas, though, however small they are. And ways must be provided for people to continue doing necessary work offline, even if they are in areas that are covered.

    Computerworld notes that the market has recently been inundated with services and apps capable of supporting offline work. The story offers a perfect example of the value of such services: A traveler who downloads a map application when in an area served by broadband should be able to use it once he or she gets lost in a dead zone.

    The story describes three ways in which interactions are completed when the user is offline. In many cases, the app or service is designed to simply wait until a connection is available to complete the necessary action.

    A growing trend is the use of mesh networks, in which any one node sends and receives information from multiple other nodes. Meshes connect offline users in two ways. In one scenario, eventually a connected node (a mobile device being used by somebody present on the mesh network) is reached. That device serves as the broadband gateway.

    The other scenario offers sort of a faux connectivity: A group of folks, say, a work team, can connect to each other and communicate using the mesh functionality. Though they aren’t truly online, many more things can be done than is possible if they are totally isolated.

    Google’s Chromebook and Chrome OS perhaps are the poster children for the need to grow offline capabilities. The Chrome OS is designed to be dependent on broadband access to the cloud, where most of its applications and services are stored. The physical machine, the Chromebook, hosts relatively little. It essentially is a presentation device.

    The company is confronting that shortcoming. SlashGear reports that the Chrome OS will provide support for offline video playback. The trend is to make the Chromebook more functional:

    Over the intervening months, however, Google has updated and enhanced Chrome OS with offline support for files and more. Access to document editing even when the Chromebook isn’t connected to the cloud – and then seamlessly synchronizing when it is again – has helped make the platform more competitive with low-cost Windows notebooks.

    Google is also active on the applications side. Wired reported early this month that the company has updated its document and spreadsheet tools for Android and iOS. The apps now allow offline document creation, viewing and editing. Likewise, Parse, a service for mobile developers that Facebook acquired a year ago, now offers the ability to create apps that work offline, according to VentureBeat.

    Carl Weinschenk
    Carl Weinschenk Carl Weinschenk Carl Weinschenk is a long-time IT and telecom journalist. His coverage areas include the IoT, artificial intelligence, artificial intelligence, drones, 3D printing LTE and 5G, SDN, NFV, net neutrality, municipal broadband, unified communications and business continuity/disaster recovery. Weinschenk has written about wireless and phone companies, cable operators and their vendor ecosystems. He also has written about alternative energy and runs a website, The Daily Music Break, as a hobby.

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