Google (Nasdaq: GOOG)'s skunk works has churned out a lot of failed experiments over the years. And a lot of people think Google Wave is one of those failures.
Don't bet on it. In fact, Wave is that rarest of IT creatures: a game-changing innovation.
Here's the storyline so far: A year ago, Google unveiled Wave -- a collaborative, real-time Internet communication platform. Wave gets big headlines, the usual suspects wax rhapsodic, and Life As We Know It promises to change forever.
Then the backlash sets in. The cynics sink their teeth into Wave and refuse to let go. We see stories declaring Wave a solution in search of a problem, and the usual suspects now proclaim that Google just doesn't grok the enterprise.
I respectfully disagree. Google "gets" the enterprise just fine, thank you very much. In fact, in this case it just might "get" the enterprise better than quite a few enterprise software vendors do.
For starters, unlike Google Apps, enterprises have the option of using Wave either inside their firewalls or as hosted, cloud-based services.
And then there's the fact that Wave is based entirely upon open APIs, open-source protocols, and Web standards. Many of those APIs make it easy to integrate data from external systems and applications. In the long run, it will be possible to integrate almost anything -- CRM, financial systems, ERP, you name it -- through the use of Wave extensions and bots.
And really, this isn't about what Wave does today. It's about what developers will be able to do with Wave tomorrow, and next month, and two years from now. By matching open APIs and protocols with widely adopted Web technologies, Google has created a platform with tremendous potential.
Should all of this strike fear into the hearts of traditional enterprise software vendors? That depends on the vendor. Some, like SAP AG (NYSE/Frankfurt: SAP), appear to be getting with the program.
Others, like Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT), may have no choice but to push back and hope for the best. The latest versions of Microsoft Exchange and SharePoint, for example, are both superb products. But they're also precisely the sort of heavyweight, legacy-bound dinosaurs that should rightly view Wave as an incoming meteor.
So, how will you know who's winning this battle? That's easy: Watch the developers. If Google can persuade enough developers to adopt Wave, the long-term consequences for how enterprises communicate, collaborate, and integrate could be amazing.
In other words, this is Google's game to win or lose. And I like their chances.