Every man and his dog is having a piece of Google Wave at the moment. That’s hardly surprising. When Google coughs, others reach for their hankies such is the media power that Google holds. I spent an hour or so watching the video. At that stage it had been viewed 443,000 times. That was less than 48 hours after the announcement. As at the time of writing this post that figure has skyrocketed to 1.04 million.
What is surprising is that Google chose to show an early development version that provides a glimpse of what might come in the months ahead. If anyone was in any doubt that Google is going after Microsoft’s heartland then what they see should put that one to bed once and for all.
Rather than go over the same stomping ground as many others, I’ll point readers to my colleague Dion Hinchcliffe’s excellent analysis of what Wave is (and may not quite be) for business. At the top of the post he neatly summarizes by saying:
Its egalitarian and federation-friendly design is intended to create an entire open ecosystem for communication and collaboration that Google is not-so-modestly touting as the reinvention of digital interaction circa 2009.
Roughly translated for the non-geeks it means Google could be useful to anyone and everyone interested in the value that collaboration brings but has had enough of the restrictions imposed by email.
Rod Drury offers an analysis that concentrates on the productivity elements but wonders how it gets monetized. Steve Gillmor on the other hand reckons he knows the answer:
Let’s say the micromessaging stream reports some event that suggests a shift in interest rates, which in turn is noticed by a robot on guard for relevant changes to your financial position and assets. This in turn triggers a message that is sent to your broker, or a transaction commitment to buy at a certain level, or a pushed reminder to click yes to authorize the purchase of flowers for Mother’s Day, etc.
I would have liked to see this argument developed further but instead, Steve seems more content to use Wave as an argument for setting up a titanic struggle between Microsoft and Google. Love him or hate him, Steve’s analysis is smart. Even if the nuanced way in which he presents the case seems overly tech loaded, it is a tantalizing discussion.
The statement that resonated with me was where Google talked about Wave being open source.That’s what got the 1 million plus views. You can be sure that geeks around the world are salivating at the potential that Wave offers, even though it is pushing an as yet to be fully formed standard: HTML 5. If you don’t know what that is then don’t worry except to know (among other things) it will make real time communication a lot easier. That in turn will have a direct impact on the cycle times for problem resolution and information discovery across and through business value chains. That alone is huge.
The question will be how Google’s view of communication and collaboration gets articulated in the way it may be integrated into the transactional applications we all use today. More important, how will it be integrated to the situational applications that could now arise out of the ability to have those real time communications? I have some ideas on this but am saving those for another day.
Google developers clearly have a vision but one that has yet to be fully articulated. The elegant way in which Wave comes together as an application shows phenomenal attention to the user experience requirement for simplicity and obviousness. This is something which many business application developers should carefully note.
Why should anyone in the business world care? The last few years have seen the emergence of new communication forms: blogs, wiki, RSS and now the emerging suites that pull those threads together. A good example is SocialText. What we’ve not seen is a breaking of the email mould. Most business relies on email yet to date, Microsoft has been safe in the knowledge that its Outlook monopoly could hold on. No more. While it is very early in the game it would not surprise me to find developers bringing business class applications to the beta table that leverge what Wave offers. When that happens Microsoft will need a competitive offering.
It is hard to see how that can happen because when you open source something, the implication is that it will be free at the point of use. That means vendors will need to find an alternative way in to monetizing outside Google’s ad engine. Enter stage left the developers of which Steve Gillmor speaks and the services businesses that can provide all sorts of ways to extract money from your IT budget.
The stage is set for some eciting developments. Let’s hope Google is able to deliver on its promise of something that is sufficiently rich that we will all want to play with it but open enough that developers will have something into which they can sink their teeth.