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Will the Google Wave inspire a Revolution?

by Tom Austin  |  May 29, 2009  |  6 Comments

Google inspires and frustrates, leads and lags, marches to the beat of a different (non-enterprise) drummer and wants everyone (including enterprises) to love and adore it.

What a mix! I have been looking at Google Wave and I am really, really impressed. At the same time, I have serious misgivings about whether Google understands what it needs to do to succeed with enterprises (I have  research note that’s about to pop out – probably will appear around 3 June).

Wave is potentially a major disruptive discontinuity, a clean sheet design. It will be darned near impossible for vendors of existing or earlier-generation products  to morph their products to effectively emulate this. Wave will force others to do new clean sheet projects.

Unfortunately, the first on the block with an entirely new, disruptive discontinuity, isn’t always the long term winner.

This is *so* refreshing and, if the design gets sticky in the consumer market, its impact will be convulsive in large enterprises. This isn’t just a new product or service. It’s a new way of working. Google’s right to focus this on consumers (not enterprises, not for the next few years).

This is not a declaration that Google will create and own “this” market.  This is a declaration that we are seeing an exciting new wave of disruptive innovation, started by Google and potentiated by a new design center (people working together in a persistent and pervasive cloud).

The design may fail. Someone else may evolve and perfect it. In the end, what matters is bold innovation that addresses many of the vexing problems posed by current product offerings.

OA – office automation – was conceptualized as automating manual tasks (typing a memo, correcting the edits, duplicating it, snail-mailing it, doing calculations on a mechanical calculator, creating slides with stick on labels and high contrast film and so forth). Current email, calendar, personal productivity and similar applications are the “ultimate” expression of those late 1970’s design goals.

Google’s wave breaks the mold, sets out to do something unique. We’ll be publishing our take on the announcement and the technology mid next week (the week of 1 June 09). In the mean time, O’Reilly’s description of Wave is a really valuable introduction. This note isn’t Gartner’s take on the Google Wave. It is my personal tribute to bold, innovative, breakthrough thinking at Google. Whether it succeeds or not, it constitutes a great step forward.

What do you think?


[We published our “Vendor Rating Note” on Google 1 April. And last looked at Gmail and other GAPE components — “The State of Google Apps” in May 2008 – the piece in final editing right now is a major update to that 2008 piece.]


Tom Austin
VP & Gartner Fellow
20 years at Gartner
41 years IT industry

Tom Austin, VP, has been a Gartner Fellow since 1997. He drives Gartner's research content incubator (the Maverick Program) and is leading a new research community creating research on the emerging era of smart machines. Read Full Bio

Thoughts on Will the Google Wave inspire a Revolution?

  1. Whit Andrews says:

    Tom, the most exciting thing about this is just what you say: This is something that looks and feels genuinely new. I covered push technology at Web Week, (may it rest in peace), and while many parts of it didn’t seem new, some of it did. In many ways, it represented a genuine shift in the way a lot of things were being accomplished — in personalization, in rich media, in communication, in software development and delivery — and while a lot of those things eventually went (back) to separate entities, I still feel charmed by a lot of what it promised. One of the reasons we push devotees are so snarky now about those days is that we miss the sense of promise and excitement that Marimba and Constellation and Backweb helped us all find in our disillusioned souls.

    I see the Wave stuff and I think: Maybe this time it will work. It’s easy to say it won’t, and chances are you or I would be right if we did say it — but what’s more important is to analyze why we hope for technologies like these, and how they’ll take shape. If not this time? Why not? And when?

    What intrigues me is a sense of real collaboration and intelligent sharing of documents and data. A lot about it concerns me — the furrowed brow sort of thing, where an analyst thinks, “OK, but why will it work like that? How will it be intuitive? How will be people take advantage of this in unforeseen ways?” What Google has is an international stage. Let’s see what they do with these lines.

  2. […] If that’s the case then Google has some addition hurdles they’ll need to jump based on their current ability to execute in the enterprise market. This is a point my colleague Tom Austin makes in his observation of Wave. […]

  3. Jamie says:

    Insert “SegWay” into your entire write up and it frames it up nicely. There is innovation for innovations sake and there is practical use of innovation that evolves and brings the users along.

    Google still hasnt figured this out and this is why it’s neat but not going to change much in the next 10 yearrs any more than the Segway changed cities as predicted.

  4. Looks pretty cool to me. I’d definitely give it a try. Seemed a little creepy at first for the recipient to be able to see what I’m typing as I type it, but when you think about how verbal conversations happen, it seems very normal.

  5. […] team in Australia, far from the company’s Mountain View, CA headquarters. Google Wave is transformative, and will likely usher new design principles into a host of software […]

  6. […] team in Australia, far from the company’s Mountain View, CA headquarters. Google Wave is transformative, and will likely usher new design principles into a host of software […]

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