Monday, 1 June 2009

Google Waves hello to Microsoft

Possibly to try to counter Microsoft’s launch of its new search engine Bing, Google last week pre-announced its new Google Wave product - a “new-age communication and collaboration tool” that seems to combine e-mail, instant messaging, and bulletin board functionality, with strong support for multi-media, into a single product.

I’ve only seen the developer preview at last week’s Google I/O 2009 conference (see
here for the 80-minute video of the presentation), and whilst it was clearly still buggy in its development form, and will not be on general release before the end of this year, it seems to be a serious future competitor to the Microsoft tools that currently dominate corporate communications.

Particularly impressive to me were the collaboration aspects of Google Wave – potentially very effective for project teams to communicate ideas and make decisions – together with the ability to replay the messages/discussions in order to see how the discussion went from initiation through to current time. Given the potential benefits for improved collaboration, I can see that small technology operations (like software houses) – particularly those using a high level of remote working, be they home-working or distributed offices – will be the early adopters; the question is, will the major corporates follow?

However, whilst such tools would be great for in-house use, I struggle to see how one might manage the security implications of opening up such ‘waves’ to users external to one’s own organisation – or even across departments in large corporates or organisations.

I also wonder about the level of server computing power (and network capacity) necessary to support just internal heavy usage – let alone the power/bandwidth necessary for public utilisation.

Google is planning for Google Wave to be open source, and through its pre-launch in San Francisco last week, is trying to encourage the developer community to embrace the product, and use the API’s to produce bolt-ons (‘gadgets’ and ‘robots’). The plan appears to promote open networks, with anyone being able to become a Wave operator, with ‘Wave’ running on a distributed network model operating on a peer-to-peer basis.

Whilst I suspect that Google Wave will need to change before its open launch - to address both potential security and performance issues - its innovative functionality will undoubtedly drive significant changes in the way we all use e-mail and instant messaging in the future. I’m intrigued to see how Microsoft will respond....

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