Tech Analysis: With the right technology improvements and some vision, could Google and the nascent Google Wave be ground zero for Unified Communications interoperability?
After spending a
couple hours with Google Wave, I have to say that the application looks to have
a lot of utility for eWEEK Labs. I think
it would be a good way for us to better collaborate between our analysts and
our freelancers, to help plan and fine tune all our reviews and analysis
pieces. And I think there is great
potential to leverage Google Wave to enable better audience participation and
real time analysis of live events on our own blogging platform
Unfortunately, at this time, the drawbacks for Google Wave
remain the same as with so many of the search giant's recent communications endeavors. The features just aren't fully baked,
largely because Google Wave isn't integrated in any sensible way with any of
Google's other applications.
A post about the Google Wave unveiling on the Official
Google Enterprise Blog
makes it sound like this was an intentional move, as "Google is making familiar
tools like e-mail and office applications much more collaborative, but with
Google Wave, we started with a blank slate to try new approaches to teamwork
without the constraints of existing applications."
And with that blank slate, Google Wave lacks so many
elements that would make the collaborative experience so much richer. As a user, I immediately noticed the lack of
built-in video conferencing, desktop sharing and telephony bridging, for
instance. While some of those capabilities
can be added to Google Wave through extensions such as TimeBridge Conferencing or
Video Chat Experience, an afternoon of playing with those plug-ins left me less
than impressed, as the features never worked for me or were limited in their usefulness
during my tests.
With Google Voice, Google Chat and Gizmo5 already separately
siloed amongst the search giant's array of communications apps and services, Google
has so many pieces at their disposal that could enhance Google Wave's
collaborative experience, if only they were baked together, preferably in a
standards-compliant way with an eye toward third-party interoperability.
When Google announced its intention
to buy Global IP Solutions (GIPS) in order to acquire its well-regarded portfolio of audio and video codecs and media
processing technologies, many analysts speculated that the move may allow
Google to leverage GIPS technology, along with Google Voice and Gizmo5, to
effectively compete with Skype for Internet-based voice and video calling.
I say that goal is shortsighted. Consumer-grade VOIP (Voice over IP) is already being done well and done affordably. Google
should aim higher than simply playing me-too with Internet voice or video calling,
to instead deliver next-generation communications and collaborative experiences
that most people don't have access to at a low price point. I
think Google Wave, with the right technology enhancements, could be ground zero
for just such an initiative.
The GIPS acquisition also has me wondering whether Google
could leverage GIPS' vast array of licensees-companies such as Cisco WebEx, IBM
Sametime and Yahoo-to become an unofficial, de facto arbiter of collaborative
and video conferencing. What if Google
were to offer those licensees a break on pricing down the road, provided that
the technology was built for interoperability (or at least Google-operability)?
From one perspective, Google could perhaps let Gmail and Google
Wave users (or perhaps Google Apps Premier users) connect to a session as
a viewer, rather than a full participant, without needing third-party
software or licenses.
But thinking bigger, Google could then possibly utilize its vast
network and processing resources to effectively become a cloud-based
MCU (Multi-Point Control Unit). It
could tell ISVs to forget for the immediate future about the Unified Communications
its machinations, to just make sure its video or collaboration program
interoperates with Google, and multivendor interoperability will just work
itself out. Thanks to Google.
If Google can find a way to wrap some ads around such a
service and make a buck of it, I wouldn't at all be surprised if this were to
come to pass.