Google Wave is another grab for the Holy Grail of collaborative computing. But will it be more successful than previous attempts?
Whenever you see something compared to Lotus Notes, as Google Wave has been, you know to expect an uphill slog. Add a comparison to Microsoft Groove, which I haven't seen but seems reasonable, and you can expect deep trouble.
Both Notes and Groove are wonderful, innovative applications that have never caught on as I had hoped. Why? They are too difficult to use and develop for. They were way ahead of their time.
Maybe Google Wave, a workplace collaboration application that is being rolled out to an additional 100,000 beta testers, has arrived at the right time, finding the right mix of power versus ease of use, and the right metaphor for delivering it.
But the big question is this: can Google Wave succeed where seemingly every collaboration application that has gone has failed?
I would love to say yes, but these applications have been a heartbreak for me. Lotus Notes is, arguably, one of the coolest applications ever. Likewise Groove, another gem from the fertile mind of Microsoft's Ray Ozzie.
Yet, both are what I call "head scratcher" applications. In that, after looking at them, people are prone to scratch their heads and wonder: "What can I do with that?" Then, once they decide, realise that Lotus Notes and Groove implementations are not nearly as easy to accomplish and they hoped.
Wave may have solved this problem. The user interface makes sense, from what I have seen, and it does not seem to overreach, which is a problem both Notes and Groove suffer from.
At the same time, Google's online applications are not particularly inspiring. Sure, Gmail offers nice filters, but that isn't much to hang an app on. Wave needs to be much more exciting than what Google has done so far if it is to succeed on a major scale.
Nevertheless, success is out there. Collaboration really is a Holy Grail of software. Everyone knows they need to collaborate better and most think a computer should be able to help.
If Google Wave is the collaboration platform that people have been waiting on, Google's success as a search engine may become known as its second-greatest accomplishment.