Earlier today Zoho launched a few new features. The first, and most notable item is partial support for Google Gears. You may remember the open source Google Gears project from when we discussed it back in May, which is when Google launched it with support for Google Reader. One-week later Remember the Milk launched their own offline support using Google Gears.

Now several months after the hype we see the initial workings of offline support for an online productivity suite. Ironically, Zoho was one of the first to break into the offline area, and did so using a product created by Google…one of Zoho’s biggest competitors. The good news for Google is that Zoho’s offline support currently has some limitations:

  • By default 15 documents are downloaded for offline use, but that can be adjusted.
  • Downloaded documents are only available in a read-only mode, but editing capabilities should be ready in a few weeks.
  • Only Zoho Writer (similar to Microsoft Word) has this feature. There was no mention of offline support for their presentation or spreadsheet applications.
  • Firefox or Internet Explorer are required (this is a Google Gears limitation).

Here’s a short video on how the offline support currently works in Zoho Writer.

I’m curious whether this is going to give Google the push they need to create a synchronized version of their Google Docs & Spreadsheets? This is something ThinkFree has done for a few months with their Premium service, and it’s a feature that I would want before diving into an online productivity suite. Of course I believe ThinkFree is doing it the right way because they off self-contained apps that work outside of your browser for the offline access.

Aside from that Zoho also launched a commenting feature that lets users leave comments anywhere in the document. You’re even able to respond to the comments, which makes the collaboration process a little easier when you’re not able to meet online at the same time.

Interestingly enough Yahoo! has been pretty quiet during all of this online productivity suite talk. I have a feeling that they are going to jump out of nowhere and make an acquisition at some point. What do you think?

Sources: Zoho Blog, TechCrunch, Read/Write Web, and Mashable