Startups Embrace Real-Time Collaboration
Perhaps the biggest mystery is what companies will do to build on top of the Wave platform. British Telecom's Ribbit VOIP (voice over IP) arm, which enables users to make voice calls from their PCs, plans to launch telephony-based gadgets built specifically for the Google Wave platform. "It's a time of experimentation," said Schadler. "We see many companies and plenty of vendors, including all the big collaboration and productivity vendors, looking at new forms of document-based collaboration."Indeed, Wave isn't the only company embracing real time for collaboration. AppJet's Etherpad, created by former Googlers, offers many of the real-time editing and collaboration features Wave provides."We will be looking into the Wave platform with great interest," wrote AppJet COO Daniel Clemens in a blog post one week after the first Wave demo at I/O. "Interoperability with Wave is a possibility, if it fits with our mission of providing the best user experience we can." Another startup, Watchitoo, makes a platform that allows users to share content while communicating in real time, granting users the ability to conduct video chats and share content in real time. Currently targeted for consumers, Watchitoo will introduce a white-label offering for businesses in October, a spokesperson for the company told eWEEK. This will include document sharing in addition to the video sharing Watchitoo currently offers. Other vendors see potential to augment Wave. ActionBase believes Wave would benefit from its marriage of business process management and collaboration tools. ActionBase CTO Jacob Ukelson said that if Google wants to drive adoption of Google Wave in the enterprise, the company will need to add more reporting and business intelligence capabilities, add user management and access control mechanisms, and allow people to use other e-mail systems with Wave. Currently, ActionBase is focused on Microsoft Office and Outlook, but Ukelson did not rule out working with Wave in the future. Clearly, Google isn't alone in the real-time collaboration conversation. But its clout and marketability is already creating a long tail of buzz smaller companies can capitalize on. The question is: Can Google capitalize on its next preview this Wednesday? "I would say that this next step for Google Wave is an important step in its development," Schadler said. "But if it fails to catch on like wildfire, that doesn't mean that the ideas or the application is wrong; it might just mean that the magic formula to turn people away from e-mail hasn't been found just yet."