Google Wave: Surfing The Future Of Collaboration

Ted-Schadler by Ted Schadler

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 conversation. 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 conversations. An awesome responsibility for sure, and one that regulators should pay attention to. But 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 & Knowledge 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 Alistair 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.

Disagree? Have comments? Please share.

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Comments

re: Google Wave: Surfing The Future Of Collaboration

I see some parallels between IBM's activity centric computing [ Activities in Lotus Connections] and Google Wave in the enterprise. I see great potential for a number of activity centric waves [ that has data from enterprise apps + all the freeform collab around it ]. What would be of greater interest is to explore how workflows would fit into a wave - that I believe is going to be extremely important to manage exceptions that happen in business processes. In an interview with Knowledge@Wharton a few years ago, John Hagel said :"Part of the opportunity here is that as you create these environments that are open ended so you can plug in social software tools as they develop and evolve, you can also create a record-keeping facility. By doing that, not only are you helping people to resolve the exceptions, but you are also creating a record of who came together over what kinds of issues, what was the context of the issue, and what was the resolution of the issue. That creates the basis for doing pattern recognition and dissemination of the learning to a broader part of the organization."While we are doing this today with a host of isolated tools, Google Waves could dramatically bring down barriers from a tools perspective. I see this going a long way in blurring the lines between what was classically a "stock" and "flow".

re: Google Wave: Surfing The Future Of Collaboration

This is the IT Industries version of the SegWay. It it neat for sure, but wont change email for generations any more than Segway changed urban landscapes, unless you are a meter maid in Boston or San Francisco.Who is the most excited by Wave? Folks in Boston and San Francisco. nuff said.

re: Google Wave: Surfing The Future Of Collaboration

Intriguing (and disturbing for sure) parallel you're drawing here, Jamie. I'd love to hear the logic behind your statement. What do you see as the barriers to the Google Wave that would prevent it from catching on? Please say more.Thanks,Ted

re: Google Wave: Surfing The Future Of Collaboration

I have no doubt that google have "built a better mousetrap" but will the world will beat a path to your door?Google do not have the sort of success the likes of other companies have in the corporate environment. I love the concept but then I stopped to think of all the sorts of things an enterprise would want to consider?Compliance for SARBOX?How can I integrate this will other systems?Who will support it?I for one would love to ue this sort of collaborative technology today- but in a heavily policed IT environment I want to know what critical success factors need to be met beofre this gets wide spread adoption?We all have email- its used to communicate, collaborate and share today. We have alternate tools like blogs, portals, content management, wikis etc but for some reason we are like smokers. We started many years ago, we know its bad for us but we cannot give it up!Microsoft's ability to do so much from within Office doesnt help either! I can see presence, I can click to call or IM, email from within a document etc.There are business hurdles, cultural hurdles, and integration hurdles to get through- but from an end-user perspective- I think its great!

re: Google Wave: Surfing The Future Of Collaboration

These are great points, Tim. Thanks for sharing.I guess my key takeaway is that once Google showed what's possible, others will also tap into those features and benefits. Both IBM and Microsoft, for example, are watching this with interest, and I've just learned that Novell has been building something like Wave into its collaboration product.So even if Google isn't able to bring this market through Google Apps Premier Edition (and I'll be you a dollar that they will), other vendors will deliver at least some of this functionality.For the record, we are having dozens of conversations with global companies about cloud-based collaboration and Google as well as Microsoft and IBM in the cloud. And I know of at least two that have moved to Google (with perhaps a case study pending) and many more that are piloting or trialing Google, often as an additional tool rather than a replacement for Notes or Exchange.WIM (what it means): Google Wave or at least its features will show up in an enterprise setting by the end of 2010.

re: Google Wave: Surfing The Future Of Collaboration

These are great points, Tim. Thanks for sharing.I guess my key takeaway is that once Google showed what's possible, others will also tap into those features and benefits. Both IBM and Microsoft, for example, are watching this with interest, and I've just learned that Novell has been building something like Wave into its collaboration product.So even if Google isn't able to bring this market through Google Apps Premier Edition (and I'll be you a dollar that they will), other vendors will deliver at least some of this functionality.For the record, we are having dozens of conversations with global companies about cloud-based collaboration and Google as well as Microsoft and IBM in the cloud. And I know of at least two that have moved to Google (with perhaps a case study pending) and many more that are piloting or trialing Google, often as an additional tool rather than a replacement for Notes or Exchange.WIM (what it means): Google Wave or at least its features will show up in an enterprise setting by the end of 2010.

re: Google Wave: Surfing The Future Of Collaboration

The potential of Google Wave!On Saturday I searched on Google Wave for a while - I was impressed with the positive comments in particular by women. They seemed to see it as an answer to their needs and eliminating their frustrations with current ways of work!Work in business enterprise or not are way to often weighed down by autonomous systems which demands not just double, triple or quadruple entries - but it forces an often unneeded and unwanted devision of labor. Which in turn produce an additional need of manpower.Those companies that find ways to truly utilize the intuitiveness of something like Google Wave in their daily business with a thorough yet intelligent integration to their other systems (including client and partner systems etc.) they will have major competitive advantage. Why? Because more intelligent work can be done in less time - with less yet the right people involved.It empowers the team working together as it breaks down the barriers do to the individual ownership of each task - they can now be done together in an intuitive way.The total timeline of a given project can be severely reduced while the quality may be improved when each task can be handled through a Wave - as it is natural to cooperate mutual inspiration comes easier, problems can be resolved at an earlier stage, it is not just possible but natural to validate the task in the process, tasks that are now handled sequentially could be solved concurrently.While the above benefits are possible they need to be managed well to succeed as a new level of complexity takes it’s form - a flatter hierarchical structure is called for as well as work methods e.g. inspired by agile methods known from software development. If the management challenge is not met it would most likely mean confusion and lost productivity.As Google Wave will be freely available - people will most likely use it on a personal level, getting things done in a smarter and easier way for and with the network. Smaller companies will also take advantage of a tool like Google Wave - some with great benefits. Enterprise companies will get there one way or another. But of cause some will miss this paradigm shift.

re: Google Wave: Surfing The Future Of Collaboration

Google Wave isn't ready for the Enterprise. There are too many security and governance issues that haven't been addressed. Moreover, the lack of data integration will slow its adoption because Wave for Enterprise is essentially project collaboration. Without the data ingredient however, it's not fully baked.