There are many ways to achieve the Offline dream. It's interesting to hear everyones different opinion. I wanted to avoid being tied in to any particular solution and I didn't want to build in any barriers to people getting involved. Solutions like Adobe Air sound wonderful but I have to expect there will be a cost involved in both getting the tools to work with the Air technology and learning the skills to work with it.
Other challenges are that I expect flash and related adobe technology will be necessary to make this functionality work. I remember a presenter at the recent Educa Online Conference I attended who lamented the overwhelming number of java versions available to different mobile handsets. Supporting each individual version has become the bane of his companies life. I wonder whether this could be the same for Adobe Air (I have no evidence to support his I'm just thinking out loud) because if adobe has to get its technology onto mobile handsets then the same situation is likely to occur. Each device will have different capabilities.
Fundamentally the different for the approach I've been pushing is that the technology should not be important. You just need a web server and a database to make Moodle work. Sure it's kind of a sledge hammer to crack a walnut but then that's because devices don't generally come with these already in place. If they do then it's a relatively easy job to adjust the configuration to suit. bascially Offline Moodle is a lot of separate components loosely tied together. For example the web server and database is supplied by xampp. If this distribution falls behind the competitors then we'll just switch to them. If Adobe Air becomes the way to go we'll switch to that. I've focused more energy on making it easy to switch than worry about what technology underlies things because I expect a new kid on the block all the time
I don't know if the concept we've used in our Offline Moodle will stand the test of time. The reason I still stand by it is because the skills to developer with Moodle are all you need to develop this Offline Moodle. And the enhancements we're adding such as incremental backups and sychonronisation between Moodles are designed to improve Moodle for everyone not just to make the Offline dream possible. For example very soon it will be possible to generate incremental backups. This should reduce massively the size of the overnight backup run for big institutions and simulaneously slash the disk space required to keep the backups. At the same time the developers at Catalyst have had a chance to address a lot of bugs within the backup and restore feature. These are either in Moodle now, or will be coming in the next release. So Moodles backup component is now more robust thanks to Offline Moodle.
It's for these reasons among many others I stick with this approach. It probably sounds like a rant saying our approach is the best. To be honest I'm not sure. it's up to the market to see what makes the cut. I just felt like putting into words some of the thoughts I've had for a long time. I'm still fascinated to see what solutions other people come up with because innovation is the key to evolution. Long may it continue.