Imagine your Internet connection dropping out, but still being able to use e-mail.
It’s just that capability — sort of — that Google announced Wednesday for its Gmail service, via the “Gears” software. Gears plug into terrestrial and mobile browsers like Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Mac OS X, Linux and Safari, plus, of course, Google Chrome and the Google Android browser; it automatically downloads messages in the background to the browser’s cache,. That way they’re locally stored should a connection drop out and they are available for viewing and responding. Then, when the connection comes back up, Gmail synchs with the browser and sends mail that’s pending.
In a sense, the announcement is just bringing Google up to speed: any IMAP-based e-mail has this capability.