The blogosphere is buzzing about Google’s major announcement yesterday: Google Wave will be a new communications platform that integrates elements of e-mail, instant messaging, wikis, photo sharing, collaborative document editing and more.
Aside from all the technical niceties of this new platform (Open APIs! Instant content updates! Smart spell checking!), Wave could turn out to be one of Google’s smartest strategic moves in a long time.
Many critics say that Google is still a one-trick pony: The company makes huge amounts of money in its search advertising business, but all the many other Google products barely generate any revenue at all.
But if you apply the same standards, even Microsoft is just a two-trick pony: The Redmond empire generates most of its profits from Windows and Microsoft Office. Windows of course was the basis for the success of Office, but Microsoft leveraged this platform dominance in a particularly smart way: By bundling several formerly disparate productivity apps into an attractive suite that provided, thanks to Windows, a much nicer user interface than the competition (remember WordPerfect? Exactly my point).
And more than that, Wave pulls together elements of previously separated web-based applications. Even though some people already fear that the result could be bloatware, I think that this is a particularly smart move. The current ecosystem of web-based collaboration tools is way too complicated for the average user. Sure, theoretically all these independent applications could be pulled together with open APIs and some RSS magic, but in practice, that’s too complex for normal people. Most users would probably prefer a single, consistently structured place where they could do all this stuff.
Wave could be to web-based collaboration what Microsoft Office was to PC-based productivity apps: The product that unifies all this emerging functionality for the average user, under a trusted brand and leveraging an established platform. And in the process, Google could potentially find a second cash cow.