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.
I found it also interesting because it also forced a rethink about content fragmentation and what needs to change in how you manage information to support that level of complexity in data manipulation -- something that ultimately will come, but now with Wave gone probably won't be as urgent for a number of years. It's odd, I feel they missed the mark with Wave but not by that much and the principles behind it were solid.ReplyDelete
To me at least, Wave always seems like the classic solution looking for a problem. I'm not sure it was very clear how it helped users, and seemed mostly focused on being a mashup of email and IM. Ironically, I wish it had email notifications, as checking for updates and responses meant yet another jump over to another page. Your observations on Sharepoint are good though.ReplyDelete
The 'content fragmentation' of multiple authors is what has always intrigued me as well, Nick. However, I don't think we've heard the end of this topic yet. Nearly every customer I meet with always asks about the 'co-authoring' available with Office 2010 and SharePoint. Personally, I'm not sure people are ready to actually use it every day, but it sure does have people's attention.ReplyDelete
I agree with all of your points Lubor. For me the demise of Wave is also a comment on the fact that IT thinks concurrent, real-time authoring will enable efficiencies, whereas users don't have time for it - asynchronous authoring and review are actually more efficient overall. More on this topic here: http://ow.ly/2lEAzReplyDelete
"...and while Wave was just a ripple on the water’s surface, there are strong currents underneath to watch out for."ReplyDelete
Watch out for Novell PULSE :-)
As the company offering PleaseReview - collaborative review and co-authoring, our view would be (i) controlled collaborative review is very much on people's agenda, and that (ii) co-authoring is starting to emerge. The key for us is one of control. The enterprise market is all about offering people the capability with 'control over who can do what to where and when'. The co-authoring offered by Wave was essentially uncontrolled. The co-authoring offered by SharePoint 2010 and Office 2010 is the same.ReplyDelete
Thank you for your comment, David. I agree that while that control is essential for co-authoring in the enterprise. At least most of times...ReplyDelete
The *hosted product* Wave is dead, but the tech lives on. They have open sourced ton of it, and I think you will start to see more "wave-like" features appearing in Google's other products like Docs and Gmail. The world wasn't ready for a revolution, so it's back to improving via evolution.ReplyDelete