Is an Enterprise Software Wave about to Wash Over You?


The usual suspects are singing the praises of something called Google Wave. The "product" - said to be "available as a developer preview" - reads to me like more unalpha'd demoware that has only barely made it off the test bench. In my day (I know you hate to hear that from us 60-somethings), you'd be fired for talking about it outside the lab unless the listener had signed a non-disclosure agreement.


The Wave concept sounds a lot like Ray Ozzie's thinking behind Notes and Groove. Not that there is anything wrong with building on earlier thinking; Ozzie did. The hyped relationship to cloud computing is misleading since collaboration software needs a cloud of some type by definition (it was called SNA or DECnet 30 years ago).


I like the promised instant translation feature. Or is it an add in? There is a lot in the Wave reviews about light-weightedness, but how long does that last if you need to add in a spell checker? I don't like the idea that this could make all collaboration instant. There is a human-relations reason that we write some things down and think about them before we share them (e.g., I've tempered this blog post considerably from my first version).


To be clear, my opinion above is totally based on reading the reviews; I have not seen the demo. My main prejudice comes from comments in the reviews such as "it struck me how amazingly cool Wave promises to be... and just how paltry most enterprise software remains." That sentence compares some not-yet-available niche collaboration software as it might be in the future to an incredibly large and diverse body of work that has been created and built up over almost 50 years on a market basis. (Before the 1960s, you had to write your own enterprise software so there was really no market.) What a leap!


And the sentence implies a complete misunderstanding of Google itself. From an IT market research perspective, all Google "products" are enterprise software and not a separate category that can be compared against enterprise software. Google does not offer a complete enterprise software suite similar to that provided by market leaders IBM, Microsoft Oracle and SAP (listed alphabetically and not in terms of market-share rank), but it is enterprise software. Google's flagship (responsible for high 90s percentage of revenue) is best-of-breed functionality for marketers and publishers that uses a powerful, proprietary (read: patent protected at least until 2011) search engine to get consumers to look at the marketers' and publishers' ads. Related add-ons track the responses and other demographics for the marketers and publishers. Flagship Google is the old bingo-card system on steroids.


To its credit, Google uses the ad revenue from the marketers and publishers to pay for the software development and related marketing and make a profit (good profits!). That's as opposed to the marketers and publishers having to pay rental or license/maintenance fees. Also, like dozens of important enterprise software products before it over the decades (the best example being ADP payroll processing software), the Google marketing/publishing software run on Google server farms rather than inhouse. Google tried to market its software the more familiar way (licensed; on-premise) when it was a startup and quickly realized that market demand was lacking (or that marketers and publishers were too cheap to pay for it directly).


The decision to go ad-sponsored/SaaS was brilliant by Google, but not the beginning of something new and different in the enterprise software market. Good luck with Wave and lets see how those already in the collaboration software market react to its promise.