I’m at the keynote for day two of Google’s I/O developer conference, where it’s extremely clear that Google decided to save its big news for the second day. The company is announcing Google Wave, a new service which–well, it’s one of the most ambitious services that Google or anyone else has cooked up? How ambitious? Project leader Lars Rasmussen says that it began with the question “What might e-mail look like if it were invented today?” And that bold idea seems like it’s understating Wave’s audacity, if anything.
I’m not sure if I can describe Wave in one coherent sentence. It:
- Is a service that looks like a rich piece of client software;
- Behaves like sophisticated threaded e-mail;
- Acts like IM when multiple collaborators are online at once.
- Is one of the most real-time collaborative tools I’ve ever seen.
- Has revision marking and versioning for workgroup editing.
- Has instant photo sharing.
- Allows its functionality to be embedded into blogs and social networks;
- Can serve as a container for OpenSocial applications;
- Has what Google says is a revolutionary spell checker;
- Comes in mobile flavors for Android and iPhone;
- Is an open-source project that lets developers write both Wave extensions (we saw one that grabs tweets and brings them into Wave) and their own servers (which can talk to other Wave servers).
I’m probably skipping or forgetting about a third of the things that Google mentioned…and I’m pretty sure it didn’t detail everything about Wave in the 90-minute demo.
Just how well all this work remains to be seen, but Google is trying to release something that’s remarkably dense with features–it looks like it’s trying to be a 5.0 product released as a beta. And even though the demo is ending now, there was a lot that didn’t get answered, such as whether Wave will be capable of replacing an e-mail client (assuming the world doesn’t immediately dump e-mail for Wave) and whether Google plans to sell Wave as a service to enterprises, as it does Google Apps. I also didn’t hear details on when Google expects Wave to be fully available.
Gut reaction: Wave, not Google Docs, is Google’s big attempt to take on Microsoft head-to-head in the world of corporate productivity. It’s not an Outlook clone–and Outlook does vital everyday things that Wave doesn’t seem to, at least yet–but it clearly wants to be the application that the worl’d businesspeople live in.
More thoughts later (we I/O attendees are supposed to get early access to Wave), but for now, a few screens after the jump. As you’ll see, the service does so much that the UI itself looks like it’s fairly bursting at the seams with stuff.