Everybody wants to save the earth, nobody wants to help mom do the dishes.  --P.J. O'Rourke

Monday, June 1, 2009

Google is making Waves

Warning: Long Video ! But worth it.

I really think Google Waves has the potential to be a true game changer in the coming years. I have used Google's Enterprise Apps version for the past few years or so, as well as Picasa, Maps, Search, Sketchup, Gmail etc. All of these offerings are good in their own right, but the "Package" was lacking something that was keeping it from being coherent. I did not know it until I saw it, But I think Waves might be the missing link. Here are a couple of factors (for lack of a better word) which I think have the possibility to make this a real breakaway moment for Google.

1. While pre-web generations were focused on perfection of all things, post web folks aren't. Stay with me for a second here. High Fidelity, HDTV, ever more complex software (hello MS Office, I am talkin to you), etc etc. The coming generations, the ones who came into their formative years post millennium are more focused on convenience over perfection. Their environment is remarkably different than the one I and my cohorts matured in, in their world nearly everything is disposable and impermanent and often free. My kids happily watch a television program or movie on the computer usually for free when and where they want. The quality is lousy, but they honestly don't care. Media, communications and software are all available from multiple channels for low or no cost and are disposable. Texting is a crummy way to communicate, but it is convenient and free, e-mail and e-mail software is largely the same, ditto for cell phones, music, ipods nearly anything else you can think of. This multichannel commodity mindset has yet to hit the world of productivity and collaboration SW, but when it does it will rapidly change the IT landscape. Open standards, strong search, flexibility and convenience are all going to become a necessity to effectively deliver IT services in this multi-channel world. With Waves, I think Google is extremely well positioned to be serve this demographic.

2. Search is likely to be increasingly important in the productivity world. I for one, NEVER manually categorize any of my e-mails and excepting spam, never delete any. Why should I? I can retrieve any e-mail in seconds with search, and the same is true for documents. Any non-professional categorization (and many professional ones) are imperfect. How many times have you sat in a colleagues office waiting for them to dig through all their e-mail folders to try to remember where they put that e-mail. Now add mutli-channel multi-format communications and collaboration and stir. How are you going to effectively keep track of all that? Waves, that's how. Google has replaced the tired "folder" metaphor with the much more relevant thread or Wave's metaphor. I also happen to be of the opinion that this will also replace the "team room" metaphor popular in Sharepoint and collaboration products. Waves puts things into context as apposed to categories, the context being the communications chain. When I go back to try to get a document, or e-mail or whatever, what is more helpful? That it is in a folder or that it is in a conversation? The first thing I always want to know is the context of the thing, what are the communications on either side of it? Waves should be able to do this much better than it's competitors.

3. What universities do matters and universities do open software. IMHO, this has been and will continue to drive the move to open source. My IT colleagues are scared witless about "not having support". But forces are strongly and rapidly pushing away that fear. Increasingly crappy and expensive customer support of overly complex and buggy COTS software and a mature open source catalogue with robust online collaboration tools have nullified the actual risk of "not having support".

When all of the above is taken into account, I'd say the needle is swinging in Google's direction, slowly but surely. Agree? Disagree?


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