Google Wave: A Complement or Replacement for Google Apps?

Google Wave, the e-mail, instant messaging, file sharing and social networking prototype application, rolled out to 6,000 programmers in a developer preview Monday, sparking spirited articles from those who have tested it. Analysts discuss the enterprise prospects of Google Wave with eWEEK and wonder whether Wave might replace Google Apps as a messaging and collaboration platform.

Some of the 6,000 programmers Google provided a developer preview for Google Wave, the experimental platform that blends e-mail, instant messaging and social networking in one communications palette, are raving about the application.

For most of us who can't use it, their words are our guide until Sept. 30, which is when Google will set the Wave rolling out to 100,000 general population users who have signed up to test it from the Wave home page.

It's early days for Wave, which is not expected to be commercialized for a couple years, but Wave has the potential to significantly augment, if not replace, some of the components in Google Apps. Google Apps includes Google's Gmail, Google Docs, Google Talk, Google Calendar, Google Video for businesses and the Google Sites wiki app.

Google Wave, as it currently exists in prototype form, performs many of the functions of those apps. Ben Rometsch, technical director for Solid State Group, a content management and Web development agency based in London, provided the most detailed review of the prototype, which drew wild applause when it was introduced at Google I/O in May. Rometsch wrote July 21:

""... it's a bunch of shared IM conversations that are organized like e-mail messages and stored on the server for time immemorial... It serves as an IM, IRC and E-mail server, but you can also do things that you might not necessarily first think of, such as using it as a simple wiki with shared editing and history... Gadgets let you drop in pretty much anything into a conversation; chess boards, maps, videos and anything else that people develop." "

eWEEK July 22 asked Rometsch if Wave is the type of thing he would use in his business to replace Solid State's existing communications tools. He said: yes, "in the future we will definitely be using it."

"We're not a big firm - 18 people, but we use a lot of different communications tools: Wiki, IM, IRC, e-mail, Google Calendar and I can see it replacing a lot of those," Rometsch said.

However, he added that Google Wave isn't ready for production, noting that the app is unstructured. Moreover, he had to reload his browser every 20 minutes because the JavaScript engine had lost the context of the application.

Solid State Group is a small shop, but it could serve as a helpful blueprint for the promise of Wave in small and midsize businesses.

Many such shops are using legacy Microsoft Office and SharePoint applications, or Google Apps and other free or low-cost Web applications to communicate and share content. Still, once the bugs and crashing kinks are worked out, Wave could revolutionize the market for unified communication and collaboration tools as it exists.