This Youtube video preview of Wave by the Google development team runs for around 80 minutes
Google has made no secret that it has been pursuing the highly defended corporate end of town for email communications. Google has yet to succeed into the corporate sector, despite the widespread use of gmail and Google Docs by many individuals within companies.
The stronghold is of course Microsoft, whose strategy is to continue to integrate their products more and more tightly so that decoupling those products becomes increasingly difficult and harder for companies to justify. The strategy is to try to protect Office by extending its functionality Sharepoint for collaboration. Like any enterprise vendor, the stack of products create value for customers by creating more value for the investments previously made. The best part for the vendor is what is known in the industry as “lock in”. That is, you have spent a lot buying the product, you have spent a lot configuring the product, therefore you are highly likely to continue doing so.
Other products have offered different collaborative benefits attacking the same market space, like Sametime from IBM. However whilst software licence savings may be demonstrated and collaborative value may be present, the decoupling / recoupling effort is generally so significant that Microsoft’s virtual monopoly is holding up.
Building to a Better Platform
Part of the challenge with the way we communicate is that voice, text, instant messaging and email are currently separate spaces. And in many corporates this mix isn’t possible due to corporate restrictions on certain products.
So, I use Skype to talk with someone. I can instant message that person during the call to send files and hyperlinks. It also keeps a copy of the chat for future reference. I can use Twitter for mass instant messaging, or to catch up on conversations and activities of the people I follow, and an update of what I am up to. Then email for, well, email.
Google Wave offers the promise of actually putting all of this together into one web based application.
One of the neat features in Wave is the ability to to create an email conversation and thread which you can turn into an instant message – where both the recipient and the receiver can see character by character what the other is typing prior to hitting submit. If there is one thing that is frustrating about instant messaging it is precisely this – it doesn’t feel instant whilst you are waiting for the typing to finish…. the collaboration is much more real time. Images and videos can be embedded, providing a much richer communication experience.
It is like a tree structure of messages, where messages can be selectively shared with participants, and viewed by history.
One of the things I love about this is the way it keeps a thread together. It reduces the volume and makes it so much easier to keep abreast of each communication.
Even better is the ability to add people in and out of the collaboration to. Suddenly need to invite a colleague in to the discussion? It is as simple as dragging their icon to the snapshots panel top right, and they can then see everything that has been covered before. No more trying to get together a bunch of emails or prepare a summary document.
Another of really neat features is the ability to embed Waves into any webpage, instantly providing a bloglike ability to add comments, track comments, add images and more. If the commenter and the web page author happen to be online and using Wave at the same time, they can instant chat and have it immediately publish. Each person can track future comments via their own Wave client.
This will create a really changed way of thinking about creating agendas for meetings, for collaborating on tools like wikis and so on.
Further innovation that is coming which is a game changer is the automatic language translation. This is a really bit innovation for those companies that are global operaters and need to collaborate internationally with those colleagues that are not English native speakers, the traditional language of the web.
This product is another innovation being developed in Australia by the team that developed Google Maps. There will be plenty more to see when this goes live. Like iphone has created a environment for developers to thrive, my view is that the open protocol that will be available will also create a lots of innovation that will start to make its way into the enterprise.
Stay tuned… and please do comment on your thoughts on Google Wave.