Yesterday, Google announced that they will sunset their Wave offering, a cloud based collaboration tool that brought closer Google to the enterprise software space, particularly into an area relevant to Enterprise Content Management (ECM) which certainly got it on my radar screen. Wave was introduced in May last year with a quite a bit of attention - just like everything else Google does. It introduced a number of interesting innovations such as live typing or concurrent editing. Warming up to no check-in/check-out is an interesting concept for a long-time content management aficionado like me. But after just 15 months, Google decided to pull the plug on Wave stating a lack of adoption. What does that actually mean going forward?
First, I am impressed by Google’s resolve to try out new things and kill them early if they don’t work out. This is hard for traditional software companies – read for any company that actually makes a living by selling software. The traditional wisdom is to hang in there for several years, keep adding features and piling up releases and, if failed, kill it in a gracefully unnoticeable way. Not at Google – if something doesn’t fly, they just kill it publicly.
The second possible consequence is related to Google’s strategy in the enterprise market. Wave was possibly their biggest bet on the enterprise. Sure, they have other enterprise offerings such as the search appliance or Google Docs, but these are mostly pieces of their consumer technology painted yellow for enterprise use (yellow is the color of the search appliance). Wave was a pure enterprise offering. There is not much collaboration happening in the consumer space and I don’t see anyone on Facebook craving concurrent editing with old high-school friends. Does the demise of Wave signal the end of Google’s ambition in the enterprise? Probably not, but this is a major mark on Google’s enterprise agenda.
The next result is a concern for cloud computing and its adoption by enterprise customers. Basically, if Google can decide to simply kill an offering containing potentially a ton of your data, anybody could. Yes, sure, Wave wasn’t officially released but no Google offering ever is – Gmail was in beta for years. And yes, Wave was free but I am pretty sure that Google sales reps were already counting their chickens for a paid-for option – just like Gmail has it. Killing off Wave is another argument for cloud skeptics. By the way, I am a cloud fan. But I am dealing with lots of skeptics every day.
Finally, the end of Google Wave has an impact on Microsoft. Wave was probably the competitor putting the most pressure on Microsoft SharePoint, forcing Microsoft to work feverishly towards a cloud-based Office and SharePoint offering. While the Office threat by Google Docs remains acute, the Office infrastructure provided by SharePoint has lost a major competitor. That likely means a massive sigh of relief in Redmond as SharePoint will continue adding the stickiness to Office desktops for which it was originally designed without a threat from Google. In other words, without a SharePoint alternative, enterprise customers will be less willing to jump ship from MS Office to Google Docs.
All in all, Google’s move to sunset Wave is major news and while Wave was just a ripple on the water’s surface, there are strong currents underneath to watch out for.