Google (GOOG) is taking another jab at Microsoft (MSFT) by further blurring the line between Web-based and desktop apps. Yesterday, it announced Google Gears, an open-source project for software developers that lets them convert their Web-based applications to desktop applications that can operate on their own without a connection to the Internet. Google will enable such offline use for its own Google Reader so that people can read blog and news feeds on a plane or at the beach just like they now can download their e-mails with Outlook.
Google Gears represents the latest step in what I call the whole Webtop movement, and is similar to what Adobe is trying to do with its Apollo project. The basic idea here is that if you can get Web software developers to easily create desktop apps, then the current distinction between the two disappears. And so does Microsoft's hold on the desktop.
Update: Real Networks is joining this Webtop trend by making all video streams downloadable in their new RealPlayer.