Google Wave: Surfing the future of collaboration

Summary:Google is a remarkable company. Need proof? Just consider how reliant we are on Google Maps to find our way around the world.

Google is a remarkable company. Need proof? Just consider how reliant we are on Google Maps to find our way around the world. That didn't happen by accident. It happened because Google empowered a couple of brothers, Lars and Jens Rasmussen, to open up the developer APIs to the mapping engine.

These same two brothers announced yesterday at Google I/O developer conference a new technology for communication and collaboration. This new collaboration engine unites email, instant messaging, blogs, wikis into a single hosted onversation. Check out the demo here and the announcement here.

These conversations or "Waves" take place inside Safari, Firefox, or Chrome and look like email on steroids. (Lars said that they took the 40-year old model of email and redesigned it for today's Web-based world.) But it's way more than that. With Google Wave, Google has:

  • Opened a new path to reinvent how we collaborate. You have to see it to understand, but why would you need four products when one Wave will do? It's a new conversational metaphor that will also easily support document-based collaboration.
  • Put the code base into open source to attract investment. Google will attract the best and brightest developers and development with this move.
  • Published developer APIs to allow others to embed "conversations" anywhere. In a hope to replicate the success of Google Maps, these APIs will make Google's hosted conversations a convenient way for anybody to offer these features to customers, members, employees, etc.
  • Re-asserted its interest in hosting the world's conversations. Google will host these conversations. And that means Google will be curator of more and more of the world's converations. An awesome reponsibility for sure, and one that regulators should pay attention to. Buut someone has to do it. Why not a company with a founding culture of "do no evil?"

Now this will happen only slowly. The product will go into official beta later this year and be evolving for the next 2 or 3 years. But the path is clear, and the implications are coming into focus. For Information & Knowlege Management Professionals and for the industry, this is what it means.

  • What it means (WIM) #1: Don't get too stuck on installed email clients -- they can't evolve fast enough. Notes and Outlook are fabulous tools. But they are installed software sold under a perpetual license model. And that means they can only evolve as fast as you are willing to buy licenses and deal with installation and change management. And that's too slow to keep up.
  • WIM #2: Google Apps Premier Edition is worth keeping a close eye on. It's a guarantee that Google Wave will appear in the Google Apps sometime soon, so keep an eye on what it might mean if you want to switch providers.
  • WIM #3: Microsoft will have yet another innovation hill to climb (and it will). Redmond will have to digest this advance, but it will shortly ramp up its own conversation-oriented online engine. It will have to make this kind of conversational advance part of its BPOS strategy at some point.
  • WIM #4: IBM's approach to collaboration is looking pretty visionary. Lotus has been quietly reinventing itself over the past few years, and if you haven't looked at Notes or Sametime lately, you need to. And with lead architect Allistair Rennie now at the vision helm, these products with their REST-ful APIs, redesigned interfaces, and Web-centric design metaphors are looking good.

Friend and colleague Jeremiah Owyang brings a nice Web 2.0 angle into this analysis. It's about combining real-time, social, asynch, and multi-media/multi-device into one place.

Topics: Enterprise Software, Collaboration, Google, Software

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