Lisa Hoover

Wave hello to Google's new collaboration tool

By Lisa Hoover
May 28, 2009 2:26 PM EDT
Google has taken the best features from all its most notable online apps and rolled them all into one new collaboration and communication tool called Wave. It's under a spotlight -- and microscope -- this week at Google's I/O developer conference, but the rest of us will have to cool our heels for a few months before it's released into the wild to be poked and prodded by the public.

Wave is an elaborate mashup of collaboration, documentation, and real-time messaging that Google hopes will make people finally sever ties with AOL, Microsoft, and other online services. Its function is similar to what would happen if you linked your team's computer desktops together, then put a giant virtual whiteboard in front of everyone. Miss an online get-together? No big deal, just replay the meeting and find out what you missed.

Computerworld's Juan Carlos Perez calls Wave "the equivalent of a Swiss Army Knife for consumer online services and possibly one of the riskiest and most ambitious endeavors Google has embarked upon in years." His concern is that it doesn't matter how useful the new Web app is if people can't or won't give up the email and word processing apps they're already accustomed to.

Indeed, that's part of the reason for the delay of a public release -- to teach us just how and why we need Wave in our lives. Google hopes to create enough buzz around Wave that when it finally does launch, users breathlessly flock to it like pre-teens to a Hannah Montana concert.

Given how many businesses rely on Google Docs and Google Apps, I think it's a safe bet Wave will fly in enterprise. If nothing else, the magic words "improved workflow" will entice companies to at least try it. There's no question that freelancers, telecommuters, and anyone who relies on remote collaboration will jump on Wave the day it's available, and stick with it if it helps save time and money.

The only demographic I have a hard time seeing as early adopters of Wave are casual computer users who go online to surf the Internet and send email, but don't use it as an integral part of their personal or professional lives. Trying to explain why this Web app is important, ground-breaking, or, okay, just plain cool will no doubt be an uphill battle.

Google must sense that they need to generate buzz out of the gate with people who are already comfortable with Web 2.0 technologies for it to really catch on. Case in point: when Wave's development team demos the product at this week's I/O keynote they'll be showing off how easily it can integrate with... wait for it... Twitter.