Wave's co-creator on why businesses are already eyeing Google's collaboration platform
It may have only been launched a few months ago but Google's Wave collaboration platform is already attracting attention from businesses, according to one of the key architects of the service.
Lars Rasmussen, Google's software engineering manager and co-creator of Wave, said unlike typical Google services, Wave has stoked early interest among both consumers and enterprises.
"Google is a company whose products usually start by capturing the imagination of consumers and then business gets interested but we have already had an enormous amount of interest [from companies]," Rasmussen told the SAP TechEd conference in Vienna yesterday.
The service, announced earlier this year, allows multiple users to chat and work together in real-time within a window Google is calling a 'wave'. In the window, people can exchange real-time IM, photos, videos, maps and documents.
Rasmussen predicted businesses will use Wave to collaborate on writing documents, decision-making and co-ordinating department workflows.
"If you have five people working together on a blog post you are amazed how quickly it can be done," he said of Google's own experience with using Wave.
Wave's real-time collaboration between business could reach a point where delicate matters such as contract negotiations could be settled using the platform, Rasmussen predicted.
However, according to Rasmussen, it's Wave's ability to handle custom apps that opens up the most interesting possibilities for businesses.
"There are a million tools that I use at Google that I would like to see integrated with Wave," he told the conference.
"Our recruitment process system, expenses system or complaints tracking system, I would love for somebody to write an application to make these collaborative.
"It could really speed up that work and that's where the real value lies for the enterprise."
Rasmussen envisages that...
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...Wave will eventually have its own app store, similar to the one offered for Apple's iPhone, where developers will sell Wave apps to businesses and consumers.
Unsurprisingly, technology companies are already creating their own apps.
ERP software maker SAP has designed an app called Gravity, which allows companies to collaborate on drafting business processes.
Wave apps are also already making ripples within two of Google's fellow web 2.0 pioneers, Wikipedia and software-as-a-service specialist Salesforce.com.
Engineers working on MediaWiki, the software that powers Wikipedia, are developing a Wave app that would allow people to collaborate on updating Wikipedia pages in real-time and Salesforce is looking at how to use Wave to improve collaboration with its customers.
Google Wave is still not fully open to the public, with access restricted to those who have received invites from the search giant.
Late last month, it significantly expanded its user base by sending out invites to 100,000 new users.
"We are in a fun place where every day we will send out an invite for more people and break the system so we can see where the bottlenecks lie and fix them," Rasmussen said.
The number of users is expected to grow to millions by early next year, he said, and, if all goes to plan, Google Wave should be released to the public "at the end of next year".
Wave's user base may be expanding but, as with many other non-search Google products, questions have been asked over how the service will contribute to the company's coffers.
Google's revenues of $4.38bn for the latest financial quarter mean that Mountain View can afford to - as Rasmussen puts it - "not worry about how to monetise products so early on".
However he is confident Google Wave will earn its keep as an important part of its cloud-based app suite it sells to businesses.
"I am 100 per cent sure that Wave will be part of Google Apps Premier Edition and that it will drive sales," he said.