I missed posting on this news due to travel, but here’s an analysis from SEL:
The Gears initiative is about creating an open standard to help turn the Web browser into a better, richer development platform and enabling applications to work “offline,” when there’s an inconsistent or non-existent Internet connection.
Fundamentally it bridges the current gap between the browser and desktop software.
Sergey Brin, in a roundtable interview with press after the morning session yesterday, specifically deflected competitive questions about Microsoft and said instead that the company was responding to user feedback and unmet needs in rolling out Gears. He said that there had been a “huge uptake” in Google Docs and that users wanted the ability to work with these tools offline.