Google is the biggest company in the world based on cloud infrastructure. It comes as no small surprise to learn recent technology news: It is investing heavily in offline services.
North Americans are used to rapidly deploying Gmail, Google Maps, YouTube, and a host of other Google-based services on the cloud, to be used on personal computers, smartphones, or laptops. To them, development of offline services can seem counterintuitive - rolling back the progress that cloud infrastructure represents.
Why Offline? Users, Users, Users
But that's a very North American-centric view. In much of the world, 2G bandwidth is the norm, and that's not always broadband enough to make cloud infrastructure genuinely available or accessible. Many countries don't have wireless - or don't have wireless consistently, which means that they can't always access the computer functions of their smartphones.
Those regions and nations are heavily populated (read: potential Google products users). In countries like India, Brazil, and Indonesia, a billion potential new users are online. But they aren't always online yet in a way that Google's cloud infrastructure products serve. Hence Google offline services.
In other countries, like Nigeria, potential customers must spend a big chunk of their income for adequate bandwidth. Offline can help make cloud-based services more affordable, and thus more accessible to a wider customer base.
It is currently common for Indians to download YouTube videos when they are at a desktop to watch during the next day. Downloads are often done at night because there is less demand.
Using the offline services, queueing and downloading become easier.
Google is also making adjustments to its services. Pages, for example, have been redesigned so that they use only 10% of the data that they do in North America. Less data = more ease of downloading with less bandwidth or intermittent service.
The Cloud Isn't Always On or Popular
There are reasons to invest in offline services that have nothing to do with capturing customers in the developing world. Anyone who has ever walked through a large high rise parking garage knows that a smartphone's functions don't always work in that environment. Ditto for airplanes. Nor do they necessarily operate under bridges. In times like these, the capability to have downloaded offline material is a boon.
Even in the developed world, the cloud is not always available. Power outages in cities large and small prevent connectivity. Sometimes cloud services stop functioning, as they did for Adobe's Creative Cloud Suite several years ago.
In these situations, the ability to have products and services offline, as well as on, simply adds to consumer choices and satisfaction.
Finally, some people choose not to work consistently on clouds out of privacy and security concerns, feeling that cloud-based products and services are more vulnerable to hacking, spying, and data breaches.
For all these reasons, offline services are not just security in the past, they are a wave of the future.