Yesterday Google released a plug-in for Firefox called Google Gears which allows users to read their Google Reader RSS feeds offline.
"So what?" you may be thinking. "There are plenty of RSS reader programs out there, many more popular than Google Reader, that allow you to do the same thing."
That's not the point.
The reason why this is a pretty huge deal is because it's an ONLINE application that's now available when you're NOT connected to the Internet. This could have much more significant implications for Google's other apps such as Gmail, Google Calendar, (hopefully) Blogger and, perhaps most intriguing of all, Google Docs and Spreadsheets.
True, Docs and Spreadsheets aren't the over-the-top productivity apps Word and Excel are, but do they need to be? The general consensus is most people only use a fraction of the "features" in Office. Even Microsoft acknowledged their products were bloated with unneeded features when they released new slimmed-down versions in Office '07.
While they could have a few more features, Docs and Spreadsheets do what most people need and nothing more and the hurdle of having to be online to edit your files may be gone within a few months, putting Microsoft squarely in Google's sights.
Microsoft makes its billions from Office and Windows sales. Could this be a silver bullet to one of its most significant cash cows?