App Engine to Add Offline Processing, XMPP

By Josh Catone
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At the end of last week, Google updated their App Engine roadmap to include a number of new APIs that they plan to release within the next six months. These roadmap updates are probably not so headline grabbing as the Q1 2009 roadmap promises they made last October, but nonetheless important.

Over the next six months — or approximately in time for the Google I/O event in May, where last year the then one-month-old App Engine was the star — Google plans to add the following new APIs to App Engine:

  • Support for running scheduled tasks
  • Task queues for performing background processing
  • Ability to receive and process incoming email
  • Support for sending and receiving XMPP (Jabber) messages

App Engine, according to the description of a Google I/O session called “Offline processing on App Engine,” was designed for request-driven web applications. By adding support for offline processing, developers will be able to create a whole new class of communications apps on App Engine, such as games, microblogging, and instant messaging apps.

Developer Gareth Rushgrove actually predicted this change to App Engine a few weeks ago, when Google announced that it would be porting Jaiku to the platform. “I reasoned you couldn’t really do it without XMPP and offline processing APIs,” he says.

App Engine is also expected to add a service for storing large files, a way for developers to pay for more resources, and a new runtime language — possibly Java — within the next few months. In December, Google hinted at an AdWords-like pricing system for App Engine.

App Engine, is actually a fourth prong on Google’s Web OS strategy, which includes Gears (offline data store), Native Client (local CPU resources for web apps), and Chrome (client side web app delivery). Google is pushing for a computing future in which applications are delivered from the cloud and the computer operating system doesn’t really matter. Whether the client is running Windows, Mac, Linux or something else is irrelevant for Google’s Web OS vision.

App Engine provides the development, hosting, and deployment framework for the application ecosystem that Google hopes to create for their Web OS. They have been rapidly iterating and improving App Engine since it launched last April. If they can meet the roadmap goals announced over the past few months, the already compelling platform will be that much more attractive to developers.

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