Google Wave: A new kind of mega-application

Google Wave: A new kind of mega-application

Google's newly unveiled Wave may be called a communication and collaboration tool, but it's much more than that. Wave combines key Web trends from the last couple of years into one elegant application. And it may make today's enterprise tools such as Microsoft SharePoint look ridiculously complicated

How It Could Help Us Work:

As for businesses, companies desperately need a technology like Wave to help their employees collaborate in a more streamlined way. Unfortunately, most enterprises remain years away from switching to this type of information stream, due to their current technology infrastructures.

The idea of Wave isn't predicated on putting information into tidy folders like you have on Microsoft SharePoint, the document management system embraced widely throughout corporate America. Instead, it's based on the notion of letting information flow freely for users to interact with on a real-time basis, much like we do on the consumer web.

It will take businesses, and the software designed for them, a long time to catch up with the innovations of streaming applications. Today, employees must sort through messy "reply-all" e-mails to engage with content as a group. If you're working with a document in SharePoint, you must "check it in" and "check it out," making it hard for multiple people to contribute in real-time.

With technologies like Wave, users can select groups and individuals whom they want to share content with in a much more eye-pleasing way. Because the content is Web-based, they can update it in real-time.

Innovative enterprise technology vendors, like Socialtext, have designed their web-based collaboration apps to incorporate stream-like formats, which allow you to edit wikis and share short, Twitter-sized messages. Some companies have adopted the technology, but it could be years before a majority of businesses embrace such a paradigm. With Google putting its weight behind this information format, it could gain more steam.

Google should (and likely will) try to incorporate Wave into Google Apps, its business software that includes Gmail, calendars, documents, spreadsheets and instant messaging. If they can show how users can interact with business content using Wave, it could increase the product's value in the eyes of enterprise technology buyers.

C.G. Lynch covers Google, Facebook, Twitter and Web 2.0 for CIO. You can follow him on Twitter: @cglynch.

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