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If Google Can Pull the Plug on Wave Like This, What’s Next?

by Jeffrey Mann  |  August 5, 2010  |  14 Comments

So Google announced yesterday that it was pulling the plug on its high profile Wave initiative. Gartner will soon publish a First Take with the official reaction, but the way this announcement was made got me thinking. I will not cry for Wave, but I find this an unsettling move. Not because Google has killed something that wasn’t working, but the way it was killed.

I was excited by the original video clip that introduced Wave. It was unlike anything I had ever seen before, and I couldn’t wait to get an invite. Once I got one, my reaction was… “Huh? Now what?” Like most people who tried it, I never really got into it. I felt kind of guilty, since I never really devoted that much time to figuring it out. I thought I would have plenty of time to do so once the kinks were worked out. google_wave.jpgBut alas. After about a year, Google announced that they will put no more development effort into it, essentially dooming it as a product.

Google certainly has the right to kill off its projects. It was still in Google Labs (not even Beta), and no one had paid for it. But the way that Google did this is unsettling. If I had spent a lot of time or money incorporating Wave into how I work, I would feel pretty bad after someone pointed out that blog post to me. Just imagine: you have to follow a specific blog page to find out that the product you have built a business around, or used every day is doomed. . If I were a partner who had spent money developing products around Wave, I  would feel even worse. Let down. Adrift. Angry. Certainly, I would think twice about doing business around Google technologies again. Actually, I wouldn’t think twice; I would never do it again.

I love how startups innovate. That means taking risks, which is to be applauded. But when do they stop being startups and when do the risks need to get smaller? I think that we have reached that point with Google now. It wants to be an enterprise player, so it needs to act like one. That means developing and communicating long term technology roadmaps that developers and enterprises can count on. Some think that this kind of flexibility and willingness to act quickly is a good thing. So do I, for small startups. Not for high profile products from grown-up companies. Google was still pushing Wave to enterprises at an event about two months ago. Even today, there is nothing on the Wave inbox page or the Wave help page or the official Wave blog page to indicate it is a dead product walking. Partners and customers are right to expect more. Google has made significant progress towards becoming a more credible technology partner and enterprise supplier. This episode is certainly a step backwards, however.

Category: collaboration  google-vendors  social-software  startup  

Tags: enterprise  google  startups  wave  

Jeffrey Mann
Research VP
20 years with Gartner and META Group
30 years IT industry

Jeffrey Mann is a Research VP at Gartner, covering cloud office, collaboration and social software.

Thoughts on If Google Can Pull the Plug on Wave Like This, What’s Next?

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Hutch Carpenter and Jeff Mann, Jason Kaneshiro. Jason Kaneshiro said: RT @bhc3: From Gartner's @jeffmann: After demise of Wave, Google needs to show more maturity to play in the enterprise market […]

  2. […] Mann from Gartner talked about this subject today on his blog. If I had spent a lot of time or money incorporating Wave into how I work, I would feel pretty bad […]

  3. […] Jeff Mann from Gartner talked about this subject today on his blog. […]

  4. Syamant says:

    The product was recently introduced in the Labs section of GApps. Some project teams were actively using this product and then yesterday’s announcement was a bit surprising.

    There is some content, documentation that has no way of being exported. Perhaps they should consider providing a data export path so that organisations can maintain a track of their projects etc.

  5. We have used Google Wave for our business and love the product.

    It has been extremely hard to sign other up and I think this is one of the spots where Google has failed.

    We build a new business strategy with inputs from employees and our board and had 262 comments/edits. I’m glad we used Wave for that.

    Any tools out there that could replace that?

  6. Steve Romero, IT Governance Evangelist says:

    Maybe this will get folks to see Google for what it is vs. what it is not. The very thing you lament in your post (the manner in which the project was killed), is an indication of what enterprises are dealing with when it comes to Google. I won’t bother to describe what Google is or if Google is right or wrong. It is really up to the consumer to do so and this event should incent them to reflect on these points.

    I will say this, Google was decisive. I always like that, even while recognizing decisiveness doesn’t mean the decision will be right.

    Steve Romero, IT Governance Evangelist

  7. John Blossom says:

    I agree with your primary point that Google needs to send “grown up” signals to enterprise players, but I believe that you are not on point with your assessment of Wave itself. After a year of development with a tiny development team, Wave had managed to gain substantial maturity and broadening use in enterprise environments. Many good use case studies are available to show that it was a serious contender for both enterprise and media collaboration. The shame is double-edged, then, because Google needed both patience and maturity.

  8. […] to some of the capabilities will remain and aspects may be included in other Google products. Jeffrey Mann, writing for Gartner, points out that developers and users may be less likely to spend effort on Google products given […]

  9. […] went wrong? – Gartner has a valid point: “Startup innovation” has simply no place in a large enterprise software company. Well, […]

  10. Jeffrey Mann says:

    Kurt, I expect several vendors to come up with functionality similar to Wave as they update their inbox functionality. IBM’s Concord project in LotusLive Labs has some elements. Cisco has demoed some Wave-like functions in their upcoming email inbox. Novell Pulse probably comes closest among enterprise products right now.

  11. I think this is the beginning of Google reaching the “saturation point”, which, unlike the tipping point, is common as companies grow. Google cannot be great at everything. As they expand their purview, they will eventually run out of “great” ideas or simply quick wins.

    I knew it would happen, I just didn’t know when.

  12. Per Urs Hölzle’s post on Google’s blog, Wave didn’t see the kind of adoption that they had hoped for. It strikes me that if they had wanted Wave to really succeed, they would have rolled it out to the general population, rather than testing its waters by invitation only. My thought is that if Wave had been open to anyone who wanted to try it, there would have been a larger adoption rate.

    While I experimented with Wave and saw a great deal of potential for the technology, I found that most of the people I invited to join, were not interested in playing around with the new technology.

    According to Dr. Wave’s Twitter status, Wave will be up until the end of the year.

  13. […] verliest Google wel iets van zijn imago als serieuze aanbieder van zakelijke software, meent Gartner-analist Jeffrey Mann. Zeker omdat Wave tot twee maanden geleden nog enthousiast aangeprezen […]

  14. […] Instead, I want to talk about my anti-resolutions for 2011.They are “anti” in a couple different ways. The main one is that these are not things that I intend to do, but are hopes and polite suggestions about other people. That is much easier, and an idea that seems to be catching on.This is also what analysts usually do; we rarely do stuff, but we comment a lot on what other people or organizations should do or have done. […]

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