IAM Alert: The Whimpering Google Wave

Google Wave - Conversation ViewInformation Architected Market Alert (IAM Alert):
Google has been resting on it’s laurels (simple/streamlined search) and primary revenue stream (AdWords) for far too long, it would seem.

Introduced last week at the Google I/O developer’s conference is their latest entree the “Google Wave” offering (see preview announcement of Google Wave at Google). (Note: This offering is currently only available as a developer preview – meaning it is a “closed door” preview at this point.)

The Evolution of a Wave

From the team in Australia that brought out Google Maps functionality as an independent company (Where2), acquired by Google in 2004, has been hard at work for the last several years in rolling out what is being called “Google Wave.”

As I mention frequently, technological innovations take time to disperse, and the “overnight success” takes somewhere around 10 years to finally find a home. Credit this thinking with Geoffrey Moore of “Crossing the Chasm” fame, Everett Rogers from his 1962 book, Diffusion of Innovations, and others.

In this case, as an old hand in the enterprise portal world (I had worked at Delphi Group for 13 years, from 1994 to 2007), having been involved in the earliest days of the enterprise portal movement and evolution across a series of portal seminars and conferences, research and consulting work from 1996 to 2002, I have to say, on the one hand, I am happy to see Google more directly embracing the portal metaphor.

On the other hand…

Congratulations Google, you’ve invented the real-time portals that CoreChange (later acquired by OpenText) among others had pioneered roughly 9 years ago. Why not simply acquire rather than re-invent this capability?

What is a wave?

From Google’s description:

Google Wave is a new model for communication and collaboration on the web…

A wave is live. With live transmission as you type, participants on a wave can have faster conversations, see edits and interact with extensions in real-time.

A wave is equal parts conversation and document. People can communicate and work together with richly formatted text, photos, videos, maps, and more.

A wave is shared. Any participant can reply anywhere in the message, edit the content and add participants at any point in the process. Then playback lets anyone rewind the wave to see who said what and when.

Don’t we have these pieces already?

Live/real-time communications already exist in the form of IM, microblogging (ala Twitter), video chat, etc.. – or from the Google universe, via Google Talk and Google Chat.

Document-based sharing is already available as well, via Zoho, Microsoft Live, and of course Google Docs (documents, spreadsheets, and presentations).

And by distinction of being “web-based” – all of these are already shareable on a common platform – the browser.

So what’s new?

Back to the Future

As with many things Googley, the “great Google” sky tends to approach new technologies from the consumer-oriented point of view, which is a much easier market to address, and allows for faster and larger scale experimentation. The prior portal players, with the exception of Yahoo! and Excite (which was sadly gutted and destroyed many years ago), the “typical” portal platform was created up front with an internally focused “enterprise view.”

To that end, some are touting Google Wave as an “all in one” killer – aimed at Twitter (created at the hands of many ex-Google employees – any animosity?), at IM (AOL, MSN, Yahoo!), and even at e-mail (take your pick).

The primary purpose of a portal (in the past or now), is to bring together the separate islands of functionality or underlying systems into a single dashboard, view or, that’s right, portal.

If you recall the early days of Google, they specifically built a search interface that was the anti-Yahoo!, Excite et al. Sparse, simple, streamlined for search and search results.

As happens with many software companies, when you do not currently have a solution or capability (whether due to focus, laziness, or inability to compete), the obvious play is to deny it’s importance.

In 2005, Google launched iGoogle which is of course a personal portal, complete with Google Gadgets (also known as widgets, portlets, and various terminology from other portal offerings). It would appear that the portal metaphor has legs, and Google is finally aligning it’s offerings to continue on the evolutionary trail already well established by other companies.

Time to Unify the Google

What appears to be happening with Google, and is a trend I’m seeing over and over again, is that there an increasing amount of simple but very specific tools being created (the vast majority of both the Web 2.0 and Enteprise 2.0 solutions),  which stirs up competition and innovation with tools that quite simply, get things done.

On the other hand, and the other extreme, more pointedly, is the desire of some companies to get the “all in one” solution, such as, witness the billion dollar market for Microsoft SharePoint (MOSS2007/SharePoint 2007), and the acquisition sprees of OpenText, Oracle, IBM, Sun, and the “large enterprise” players.

The Mashup Middle Ground

Re-enter the portal play – while it’s quite easy to argue that Google Wave is nothing new, and perhaps misses the pros and cons of earlier portal offerings, there is no doubt that this is part of a re-birth of portal technologies.

Which is perfect timing for a shaky economy – as we say in nearly every consulting engagement… You probably do not need MORE technology in your organization. You just need to make your existing investment work much more effectively, which is exactly what a portal “meta layer” will allow you to do.

Standards are more broadly adopted and understood at this stage in the market, and there is a far greater chance that portal implementations in 2009 and beyond will happen in weeks to months versus the 6-18 months of days past.

Will Google Wave be the Portal Saviour?

It seems unlikely that, early buzz aside, Google Wave will “own” the portal space any time soon, but if nothing else, it may cause Microsoft to realize once again that they have some turf to defend – after all, SharePoint initially came to be known as a portal framework, although it has rapidly come to be known primarily as more light-weight filesharing and search platform.

It will be interesting to see who rallies around Google Wave as a platform for development ON TOP of this infrastructure, as has happened with Salesforce.com, Amazon’s cloud services, and Apple’s iTunes Music Store (among others), and otherwise, exactly how much market share Google itself takes directly via Google Wave.

What’s YOUR Take?

Does Google Wave has a place in your portal or collaboration strategy? Replacing existing systems? Supplementing? Have never had such capabilities?

Let us know – this will be an interesting fight to watch.

Is Your Information Architected for Collaboration?

If not, let us bring our portal, collaboration, process, and content expertise to bear on YOUR project.

It it is entirely likely that you will not need to spend a single dime more on technology to get far better use of any investments you have already made.

Or if you have not yet invested in collaboration, let us help you make the most cost-effective choices in Doing Collaboration Right. It’s not just the technical tools you use, but the entire business environment as well.

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