Blogger: Larry Cannell
Last week at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference I attended both the Google Wave keynote and break-out sessions (the keynote on the main stage was a shortened version of the full break-out). In each session, Greg D'Alesandre briefly introduced Google Wave and then speakers from Novell, SAP, and ThoughtWorks took turns showing us how their products integrate with Wave.
The Google Wave breakout session took place on the last day of the conference and was in the last time slot (east-coasters leaving San Francisco Wednesday night or early Thursday morning missed out). Nevertheless, the room was filled with a standing room-only crowd, eager to learn more.
Unfortunately, my sense was that attendees were generally underwhelmed. I left the session thinking that Wave’s honeymoon with the public may be just about over. As you would expect, most everyone in the room was unfamiliar with the Novell, SAP, and ThoughtWorks products being demonstrated. So it was especially difficult for the speakers to get their points across in the few minutes they were allotted because they had to introduce their products (which have unique capabilities all their own) while also explaining how they integrate with Google Wave. The problem: very few people understand what the heck Google Wave is.
For a collaboration and content management geek, such as me, Google Wave represents a huge potential. But, for most everyone else, ehhh…what’s the big deal? Of course, Google has its many fans and any product introduced with this much fanfare comes with high expectations. However, I have yet to hear a good elevator pitch for Google Wave.
Google is not alone. Many vendors and open source projects have a hard time explaining their collaboration products. The problem is people have no frame of reference from which to work. By comparison, introducing people to e-mail was relatively easy. It is an electronic form of mail, something that has been around for a long time. In the United States, mail has been around at least as long as the Pony Express (over 150 years).
So, Google is learning what collaboration vendors (and many IT strategists) have known for years: selling collaboration technologies is difficult. I am not saying that Google Wave will fail. However, I do not expect Wave to be as successful as GMail, for example, for a long time (if ever).
Perhaps one day this may not be an issue. Maybe Wave, or some other product, becomes synonymous with Internet-based collaboration and people can reference it in the normal course of a conversation. However, that day is a long way away. In the meantime, will Google’s management have enough patience for Wave to have an impact?