I just spent a fun hour watching the introductory Google Wave demo.
Google touts it as a ‘demonstration of what’s possible in the browser’. Hello HTML 5. The larger message from Google is clear: you need the (Microsoft) desktop even less than you did before. Well we’ll see.
A Wave is a multimedia shared object on steroids, combining aspects of instant messaging, email, wikis and document sharing, that can easily be rewound by people who belatedly join the conversation. As you communicate, there is a cool instant transmit feature, “live collaborative editing”, where you can see your friend’s message as he types it, without having to wait until he sends it to see it. IMs will flow along like conversations… an amazing time-saver. (But wait, it’s not IM, it Wave-ing!)
There’s a lot more and I’d recommend checking out the video.
One possible shortcoming that I see is that if a Wave is an ongoing ‘conversation’ about a given subject, will I still have to check my email for entirely new messages that have no place in an existing wave? If I do, then Google seems to have fragmented, not integrated, my communications, and I have yet another place to check for vital messages each day.
Wave could be a threat to many of Google’s existing products, bundling the functionality of many existing tools together as it does, but you have to respect Google for taking that chance. One lesson of the last 15-20 years is that if large established tech companies don’t retain a tendency in their cultures toward disruptive innovation, smaller more nimble companies with less to lose will displace them. The real significance of Wave might be that it shows that despite Google’s size and large pile of cash, it hasn’t lost its willingness to take chances.