"The XML-RPC API is also intended as glue for connecting a Salesforce.com CRM implementation to other systems, such as a customer’s HR system. And, in the Enterprise Edition, the API defines the XML data model that supports the offline feature. […] Sooner or later, the Windows file system will likely morph into a database — one that furthers the SQL/XML hybridization we see in SQL Server already. An application that uses file-oriented XML data now will be well-positioned to exploit a local database engine, if and when such a thing becomes a standard part of the installed base."
Microsoft does want to get there. First, there was the Access runtime (hey, they were dinosaurs before mammals), then MSDE which "supports merge replication both as a publisher and as a subscriber". So features, scalability and realibility did grow, but these products still need to be deployed and configured (a major hassle when the scale is thousands of laptops). IE has also been starting to embed XML connectivity with data islands in order to minimize roundtrips to the server. But, as the saleforce.com example shows, it’s still far from out-of-the-box to implement offline web apps. PWS (the local IIS) might have helped, but I’m not sure it’s even possible to administrate it from a central point (and it’s not installed by default).
OS-based database support will be a very compelling reason to upgrade clients in the enterprise, and a good tool for Microsoft to fight Lotus and database vendors – and their ISVs – in mobile scenarios.
Interestingly, probably in about the same time frame, ASP.NET should be able to cache items based on database dependencies (V1 works only on policy and file dependencies). That’ll mean more trouble for Vignette (if they’re still around by then). So overall we should eventually have a platform that (easily) manages the right data at the right place for the right app, (database or file system, client or server, web or LAN, transactional or groupware, offline or online). Some of these issues were touched during this speech at the PDC last October.
02/15/02 (more or less related) update: Pivia is now more explicit about what they do ("dynamic application caching software").
02/16/02 update: Mobular
"aggregates data from any source, adds its own proprietary database and search technologies, compresses it, and delivers it as a self-contained, high-performance package that lets the end user browse and search the data with near-instantaneous speed – because all the processing and the database are located on the end user’s computing device."