Wave vs. SharePoint: Big Splash or Tiny Ripple?


Google isn't saying Wave will compete with Sharepoint-but then again, it doesn't have to. After seeing Wave's potential for document collaboration and a well-placed comment about how Wave's openness is lacking in SharePoint, and the comparisons came naturally.


In fact, last week when I wrote about Wave's potential as an enterprise integration tool, Ken-Hardin, who oversees editorial operations at IT Business Edge, e-mailed me that he was unimpressed, noting that APIs are hardly an enterprise-shaking development. He added that while he can see why people would want this sort of functionality-a bit of Facebook with a dash of private BI and a cool dashboard-he thought the real question was how Google Wave compares with Sharepoint.


Sometimes, I'm afflicted by integration tunnel vision. I see the integration angle and forget the rest. I suppose that's what happens when you single-mindedly blog about something every day for two years. Of course, it made perfect sense. So I went searching and found several pieces comparing the two.


"Could Google Wave tip Sharepoint Cow?" touts a Channel Web headline.


"By blurring lines between e-mail and instant messaging, as well as between the diametrically opposed worlds of realtime conversation and documents, Google Wave represents a looming challenge, if not a threat, to the Microsoft SharePoint cash cow, according to solution providers," the article contends. It continues on to quote Neil Pearlstein, president of Microsoft Gold Partner PC Professional, as saying Wave is not an immediate threat to SharePoint, but "the race is on."


Rick Whiting of Channel Web's news blog warns Wave will compete with all communication and collaboration vendors, not just Microsoft, writing, "Wave will pose a competitive challenge to SharePoint, Microsoft's collaboration and communication software that's generating more than $1 billion in sales, as well as collaboration and communications applications from IBM Lotus and other vendors."


"Google Wave" May Challenge Microsoft SharePoint," proclaimed an eWeek headline just after the May unveiling of Wave. The story continued:

Wave also has the potential to blunt the success of Microsoft's SharePoint. While Google isn't positioning Wave as a SharePoint competitor, (VP of engineering at Google and head of developer evangelism Vic) Gundotra at a press conference following the Wave demonstration highlighted Wave's openness as something lacking in SharePoint. Within a year or two, businesses considering SharePoint but worried about vendor lock-in may have an attractive lightweight alternative."

The most recent comparison came from Hans van Rietschote, the former the Senior Director of the Technology Scouting Group at Symantec and now a member of the Gerson Lehrman Group's technology council. After viewing Google's presentation, he certainly felt Google was trying to position Wave as a replacement not just for SharePoint, but for all communications tools:

"...if this 1 hour and 20 minute demo is anything to go by then if executed properly a Google Wave (like) technology could replace: e-mail, instant messaging, Wikis, blogs and even Microsoft SharePoint, and all you need is a browser running on some operating system. So yes Wave is a real threat to Microsoft's corporate desktop monopoly. It does everything the Microsoft tools do and then some."

That said, I couldn't help but notice in a related analysis written for the Gerson Lehrman Group, he points out Google's real target is ad revenue. Forcing Microsoft to "up the ante" is just a side-effect of grabbing readers for longer and longer time spans.


There is no doubt in my mind that Google Wave will offer something similar, if not better than, SharePoint. There's a reason I abandoned Outlook ages ago in favor of Gmail. Google does browser-based applications well.


But I have serious reservations about whether Wave can compete with SharePoint. Rob Enderle-who knows better than I-believes Google just doesn't have what it takes to be an enterprise player. I agree, but for different reasons than Enderle.


Microsoft, IBM, SAP, Oracle-these companies aren't just solution providers. They're socio-economic machines. Heck, they're practically small countries.


Google is impressive, and its passive control over what we read is frightening, but it just doesn't have the political infrastructure to compete in the enterprise space and probably not even in the mid-size business space.


Where are the Google "Gold Partners?" The Google Wave certifications? The Google user groups? I just can't imagine why, when so many companies are already investing in SharePoint-not just the server and the licenses, but the training and certifications-why they'd switch to Google. Particularly when all the Microsoft-certified IT employees on your staff warning you-and they will warn you-that they're not sure how to install it, customize it, support it, or -- worse -- secure it.


My background is in reporting, and that's primarily what I do. If people say Wave can be used for integration, I'll tell you about it. If people say it's going to compete with SharePoint, I'll tell you about it.


That said, I do occasionally form opinions. Maybe it's the cynic in me, but in my humble opinion, but I can't see Wave taking on SharePoint. What's more, I'm not even sold on it's enterprise integration ramifications. As Francis Carden, CEO of OpenSpan, a desktop integration company, wrote in response to last week's Wave enterprise integration post:

"Do these people seriously think that the 30+ year problem of siloed applications is going to be solved by yet another, albeit cool, technology? The hard part of turning siloed applications into Open Applications is NOT even closely solved by what Wave brings. Enterprise applications consist of 1000's of thousands of man hours and man lines of code. Where no clean API exist today, no one knows how that code works. We might be on a path to replace ALL code with web services but that's a 10++ year mission - if we had the budgets."

I'm sure I'll like Wave. I use Gmail daily, if not hourly, I adore Google Reader and I shrudder to think of house-hunting without Google Maps. Then again, I also love my Apple iPod, the first Mac I ever owned and I covet an Apple MacBook. But so far, that hasn't helped Apple's infiltrate the enterprise, with it's well-entrenched devotion to Microsoft.


For the same reasons, I just can't see Google -- or Wave -- making more than a light ripple in the business world.