Google held a superbly-received preview of a new technology called Google Wave, which promises to “reinvent communication.” In simplest terms, Google Wave is a software platform that:
- Offers the possibility to improve upon a broad range of communication, collaboration, and/or text-based product categories, such as:
- Word processing
- Instant messaging
- Mini-portals (Facebook-style)
- Mini-portals (Sharepoint-style)
- In particular, allows these applications to be both much more integrated and interactive than they now are.
- Will have open developer APIs.
- WIll be open-sourced.
If this all works out, Google Wave could play merry hell with Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft SharePoint, and more.
I suspect it will.
And by the way, there’s a cool “natural language” angle as well.
For starters, here are some basic links:
- Google has naturally set up a home page for the Google Wave project.
- Featured on that page but also separately available is an 80-minute video introducing Google Wave.
- Techcrunch has two highly detailed posts on Google Wave, one summarizing what’s in the main Google Wave video and one reporting on a Google Wave Q&A.
Here are some reasons I think Google Wave could actually live up to its promise:
- The email problem Google Wave purports to solve is real and critical. The email paradigm assumes linear conversations, and what actually happens is that they branch. Google Wave’s message-board-like paradigm is simply better, and more flexible (e.g., not limited to a single enterprise!) than Microsoft Exchange or Lotus Notes.
- The instant messaging problems Google Wave purports to solve are also major. Instant messaging is slow, tedious, disjointed, and ephemeral. Fully integrating IM with email solves most of those problems. And Google Wave’s UI interactivity solves most of the rest.
- Twitter needs to be integrated with other forms of communication. What’s more, Twitter’s functionality needs to be drastically extended. Google Wave is the best hope I know of to meet those needs. Enterprise Twitter is just a special case of that.
- Workgroups (enterprise or otherwise) need light-weight mini-portals that can be created on the fly by non-technical users, to ease collaboration. Microsoft SharePoint, SAP Rooms, et al. don’t really meet that need. Google Wave could.
- In particular, collaboration on documents, presentations and so on needs to be more cloud-based and generally easier than is the case in Microsoft Office. Google Wave has the potential to provide that.
- Google + open source is a potentially potent combination, especially versus Microsoft.
One note: Google of course needs to improve the reliability and customer service of its cloud-based offerings to make a huge dent in Microsoft’s market. But even with its flaws Google has already been a good alternative for a while.
As for the “natural language” angle: At the 44:30 mark of the main Google Wave video is a demo of some cool, very grammar-sensitive spell-checking technology. Google’s spell-checking technology is further discussed in a separate, short video. The basic idea is that Google uses its vast library of web pages — and email and chat? — not just to model intended word usage but also kinds of mis-spelling behavior as well.