By now you will probably have digested the initial information about Google Wave, strategically announced on the same day as Microsoft's Bing search engine last week. Two not quite ready for prime time products - one open source, the other arguably a partially walled garden - with both intended to be major game changers.
Bing (formerly 'Kumo') should become Microsoft's default search sometime this week (June 3), and appears poised to become a next generation intelligent search agent within the style of the AOL model.
Google's announcement had much more creative meat. A small 'start up' sized team in Sydney Australia comprised of members of Google Maps creators 'Where 2 Tech', which Google acquired in 2006, showed off some clever concepts which Dion Hinchcliffe has parsed for us here from an enterprise perspective.
What's Happening Today
Countless enterprise 2.0 start ups have been working through broadly similar concepts to 'Wave' for the last three years, and there are many successful products being used right now which contain elements of Google's next generation aspirations.
I'm writing this post in Evernote, for example, the useful 'content swiss army knife' capture tool. Open source enterprise collaboration and community platform company MindTouch has created products that 'improve operational efficiency through business automation with dashboards, dynamic reports and enterprise mashups' that are used by countless businesses worldwide to connect and remix enterprise systems, social tools and web services'.
Atlassian, creators of a sophisticated array of developer and IT tools that underpin myriad open source enterprise strength environments, plus their enterprise strength 'confluence' wiki product, are a bedrock of the developer community: their 'Atlassian Summit' user conference and workshops are currently happening in San Francisco.
My point is that while Bing and Wave are nascent big company offerings, there is a huge array of tools you can use right now which are a little overshadowed by the hype from these announcements.
Yahoo's Search Monkey is a good example of a linked data open platform you can use today that realizes the model Bing is aspiring to. A lot of hard work has gone into this sophisticated effort to make Yahoo searches more contextual, and to allow you to be able to build applications on top of it that can display your custom enhanced results and mashups.
Big bang announcements can be very exciting and generate huge publicity, but inevitably there's a time a few months later when the promise needs to turn to reality, and the big concepts are proven to be viable. Or not...
Historically large vendors have found it hard to transcend generational changes - and with the inexorable shift to linked data, known variously as Web 3.0, the Semantic Web and more importantly as a much more personal web experience - there are real challenges for big players such as Microsoft and Google to move with the times.
While smaller players in the enterprise 2.0 space aim to stay 12-18 months ahead of the bigger, less nimble 800 lb gorrillas, the bigger issue is relevance. The reality is that Microsoft is weak in the search space - hence the bids for Yahoo and the 100 million dollar ad campaign for Bing through JWT - while Google is weak in enterprise software.
Two behemoths going after each others markets
Google apps, while a very popular tool for students, has never caught on in the enterprise due to security concerns, with a few exceptions - Microsoft Office is the default in cubicle land. Google search meanwhile is currently the global market leader, and is a popular enterprise solution in the form of internal appliances behind the firewall, while Microsoft's search and associated electronically stored information taxonomy and tagging has been famously weak.
While these two giants slug it out for the others coveted market the playing field may well change significantly as the third big internet revolution unfolds. We've gone from Web 1.0, the read only static html website world to 2.0, the read-write, 'user generated content' web. The explosion in interconnectedness is at the expense of information fragmentation: the third web generation is all about the meaning and context of data and information.
Behaviorally suggested content; the personalized experience of a web that seems to know you and anticipates what you want is just around the corner.
From an enterprise collaboration perspective this translates as linked intelligence. Instead of navigating to FAQ's or wiki buckets, ribbons of contextual intelligence will be associated with each artifact. This rich context will ideally make learning and understanding easier at the new company you join in a few years.
I say ideally because both these 'big bang' moves by Microsoft and Google may ultimately be the enterprise boat anchors of the future; the constricting containers that have to be worked around. The biggest question of all is where data lives in the future - would you trust your linked intelligence to be effectively owned by Microsoft or Google?
Image from the 1982 film Tron