Today’s huge news story is of course the launch of the Google’s collaborative online communication system the Wave. Unless you have been under a tech rock you’ll know that that the Wave brings together applications such as email, Instant Messaging as well image and document sharing in a innovative new tool online tool. It is designed for both businesses – so that users can have real-time conversations with their colleagues – and consumers, who can also use the Wave to plan holidays, nights out etc with their friends.
The brainchild of Google’s star developers, the Rasmussen brothers, the Wave has been described as what email would be like were it invented today.
It also sounds very exciting and I can’t want to get my hands on an invitation, however in spite of a positive reaction to the app today from many key industry figures Google has a long way to go before it can make the Wave a success.
Here are the key issues it faces
1 Browser compatibility – Not surprisingly the Wave works with Google’s Chrome browser and it will also function with Firefox, but to get it working with Microsoft’s Internet Explorer requires a plug-in, and guess what, Microsoft is advising IE users not to download it. It might not have as high profile as Chrome and Firefox these days but IE is still the browser of choice of 65% of web users.
2 The Google Wave already has plenty of competition – Although the Wave has many unique features people are already using web based tools and sites to make and share documents. In a very basic way there is a great deal of collaboration already going on via Facebook, Twitter and even MySpace, while at the more corporate end of the spectrum are several excellent collaboration tools already such as the UK’s very own Huddle. Then of course there are already millions of people across the globe using Microsoft’s collaboration tools.
3 Google has a habit of launching products that don’t fulfil their potential – Ok Google dominates the search market and has had several massive successes, but for every Adsense, which has revolutionised the online advertising market there are many Google innovations like Google Answers which simply don’t register with consumers. There’s also the issue for Chrome which has done reasonably well so far, but is still a minor player in the browser market with a market share of just 2.84%. And as for Google Docs, well that is still a missed opportunity for me at least.
4 The Wave might be too fiddly for consumers, yet not corporate enough for businesses – In my experience company IT departments, in the UK at least, tend to be very conservative and slow to adopt new systems. That means that many mid and large companies are firmly wedded to Microsoft and are very slow to look for solutions outside the MS orbit. As for consumers the Wave might just prove to be a little too sophisticated. The Wave, with its mix of communication tools, images and maps is perfect for planning a trip to the pub? But would you use it for something that simple? Mmm not sure.
5 Application melt down – The Wave, which has an open API, does provide developers with an opportunity to showcase their wares. But how many of them will take the plunge? Google is up against everything from the iPhone to Facebook and both of those have much larger more engaged audiences than Wave will have for at least the next couple of years. A lack of any decent apps might make Wave look a bit second rate.