A report from India's Hindustan Times, citing "highly placed sources," indicates that Google is planning to release an offline version of its popular web-based Gmail email service.

According to the article, the basis for an offline email facility was laid by Google earlier this year when it launched Google Gears, an open-source technology that allows software developers to create web applications while working offline. Google has previously offered an offline version of Google Reader using the Gears browser plug-in.

While many will welcome an offline solution, Gmail is already available offline through desktop e-mail software such as Outlook, Thunderbird, and others. It remains to be seen if the functionality of a browser-based offline solution can compare to an actual desktop client.

Although the story is unconfirmed by Google at this stage, The Hindustan Times says that users can expect to see an offline Gmail service, as well as offline versions of Google Docs and other software, available sometime this year.