Google Wave Runs Aground, But Search Giant Still Keen on UC

By Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, IP Communications Magazines  |  October 01, 2010

This article originally appeared in the October 2010 issue of Unified Communications magazine

Google (News - Alert) recently put the kibosh on Google Wave. But that doesn’t mean the search giant has abandoned unified communications altogether. In fact, UC is one area in which Google seems to have a keen interest, as expressed by its actions if not its words.

"Although Google has not officially announced this strategy," says Dorota Oviedo, industry analyst for Frost & Sullivan’s (News - Alert) unified communications & collaboration group, "it is evident that, by continually adding new UCC applications to its portfolio and focusing on integrating them, the company is effectively entering the UCC market.”

Oviedo says Google already has a good start on that with its Google Apps, Google Voice voice over IP service, Google Buzz social media tool, and the Android (News - Alert) mobile operating system and related ecosystem.

Given “its proactive approach, abundant capital and human resources, [Google] will very likely become a major UCC participant in the coming years,” according to Frost & Sullivan.

That said, why didn’t Google Wave rise to the occasion? And why did the search giant drain funding from this effort, which was expected to be the linchpin of the company’s collaboration offering?

In an Aug. 4 blog, Google explained that when it launched the “developer preview” of Google Wave last year at Google I/O “it set a high bar for what was possible in a web browser” and whipped the audience into such a frenzy that they cheered, stood up and waved their laptops in the air. Folks at Google were “equally jazzed” about Google Wave, the blog says.

But because user adoption for Google Wave was below target, the search giant says, the company doesn’t plan on continuing to develop it – at least not as a standalone product. The current plan is to keep the site running at least through the end of 2010 and to leverage the technology for other Google projects when it makes sense. That’s probably best given that while Google Wave had a lot of cool capabilities, as a service it was kind of hard for people to get their heads around.

TMC’s Rich Tehrani (News - Alert) expresses that point in a recent blog about the demise of Google Wave. In it, he writes that while the concept of merging social networks and e-mail to improve both seemed like a solid idea, when he sent information about the service to the TMC team in marketing, design and web development “they didn't get it.” But the TMC team was not unique in this regard, he points out, as “no one got it.”

Indeed. Even Google itself struggled to clearly define Google Wave. But Lars Rasmussen, one of the Google Wave team leads, did his best in an interview for the February issue of UC Magazine.

Rasmussen in that interview said: "Instead of users participating in a Wave – and you can think of a Wave as being half way between a document and a conversation – a Wave is a tree structure of messages. Each participant can add and remove messages; and they can edit existing messages. That's really all there is to it. It sounds very, very simple, but it turns out that there is a very broad range of utility in these Waves.”

Perhaps telling of how difficult it was to demonstrate Wave, Rasmussen also mentioned that Google did a "ridiculously long demo” at its developers' conference.

He added that Wave allowed users to "have conversations like you would on an instant messaging system. But because you can edit messages - even each other's messages - you can use it to collaborate on content by editing it, even at the same time. You can use it to put together photo albums. We have the extensibility mechanisms so that third parties can add types of content to it, from games to drawing surfaces. One of our favorite demos came from SAP (News - Alert) to build a business processing modeling tool on top of it."

Edited by Tammy Wolf