Tonight I finally took time to watch the entire demo of Google Wave from the recent IO conference. I had already read a lot about it, but had not yet found an hour and a half to watch the entire presentation. This is a pretty busy period, so finding that much time to do anything not attached to a deadline, or some outdoor activity not connected with a keyboard is difficult.
But it was well worth the time invested. While 80 minutes is a bit long, this is a nice way to get an overview of new technologies; certainly better than white papers or static web sites. The enthusiasm of the Google developers and the people in the audience were obvious, It was easy to see that these were the actual developers, showing something they believe in strongly. It felt like watching a high school science project at times, with better graphics.
I found many of the quick asides about usability in the talk the most interesting. The speakers didn’t make a big deal of them, but they give good insights into how to look at technologies that really can change how we work. The two that come to mind are the observation that real time updates that happen too fast can end up being distracting, so might have to be artificially slowed down. Another one was that watching people type letter by letter exposes work in progress that might not always want to be shown.
Public interest in Wave is very high, perhaps even too high. A client recently asked if they should stop all investments in collaboration until Wave is released. I don’t think so. As exciting as Wave is, halting current projects on the basis of a Youtube video about a product with no release date, no pricing, no upgrade path and a hundred other open questions does not seem like a good idea.
Wave certainly is exciting. It shows what is possible when smart people are given an interesting task, without all those annoying constraints that most product vendors have to content with, like backward compatibility, effort to upgrade, migration costs and established infrastructures. Even just as a think exercise, Wave is useful to show we could work together, and questioning the assumptions that short messages happen in an IM client and longer messages in an email client. These distinctions are more a function of history than necessity.
My colleagues have published a First Take on Google Wave with more thoughts, but this is what impressed me the most. There are many more questions to be answered before Wave will make a big impact on enterprises, but I look forward to hearing more about it as it approaches real release. I also look forward to more online videos to introduce new products, but please hold it to 30 minutes or less.