Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Google Wave Will prevail. Here's why!

A few weeks ago, I wrote my blog post on Google wave titled "Tsunami of twaddle - only time will tell". At the time of that writing, I had only been witness to wave and had not really used it. Since then I have gotten an invite to Google-wave and have used it, but felt that I had to have a critical mass and a reason for starting a wave (a conversation) for it to make sense to me. In the earlier article, I had mentioned that the wave was truly more disruptive to people then constructive because the wave would always bubble up to the top items that were mundane.

The wave is the first real time communication dashboard where the boundaries around instant messaging (IM), email and collaboration merge to allow people to be connected in real time. Real time to a point where your typing on your screen is already being seen by the other person. So in that article I kind of hinted that Google had it's path stacked with obstacles because people who are normally used to email and other forms of communication prefer to be in an environment where they are not in interrupt mode all the time. My argument was that the time spent on collaborating and working independently were mutually exclusive and equally important to people and teams.

I wondered how Google would get the opportunity to build a group of committed first adopters, gain critical mass for the wave to make sense to the users and then continue to have users who would stick with wave while Google tinkered with it. In fact the challenge to Google is to have those first adopters turn into long term users who are comfortable with wave in every sense. It seems Google has found the answer to all of those.

So I was scanning the online Star Ledger (NJ newspaper) at and found an article which reported that the Parsippany township school district (Morris County, NJ) had partnered with Google to provide e-mail accounts to all middle and high school students, joining a growing number of schools that switched to the free Gmail. The school district had reached a five-year agreement with Google to offer almost 4,000 Gmail accounts to students at its two middle schools and two high schools. In the past, students had used a slew of private e-mail addresses for school work. By switching to Gmail and one system, it makes it easier for teachers to communicate with their classes and students. Another perk of the deal is that Google will provide access to other Google features that allow students to share documents and to chat. School superintendents across NJ and elsewhere believe that those features fit each district’s Web 2.0 approach to its curriculum, with students using streamed video, online bulletin boards, chat rooms and e-mail to do their assignments. It seems that some other schools in NJ have already adopted gmail and its additional features.

The Google deal is also a death spiral for other email services, because, the report said that other personal e-mail services, such as Hotmail, are slated to be blocked at the start of next year. This may be local to the one school district, however I am inclined to think that Google is putting this into all their contracts. According to Google, thousands of educational institutions, with upwards of 6 million students, have outsourced e-mail services to Gmail over the past three years. Google has said it has seen a surge in schools using the service since the current academic year started.

So why does this spell success for the Wave? The answer lies in the fact that Google's strategic brilliance is to position wave for tommorow's workforce. By marinating middle school and high school children with Google wave and letting them use the tools over the next few years, Google is training an army of patriotic wave users. This assuming that, the children will all adopt it and like it. However I am more inclined to think that the best way to learn something difficult is to do it as a child. It's like learning a new langugage. As children, human beings are more capable of absorbing new things without asking too many questions. In much the same way, Google is seeding today's middle and high school students in gmail, wave and other google services so that they can be users tomorrow.

With already 6 million school children many of who will be exposed to wave, Google has an army of testers for wave which they will fine tune over the next few years. Google is seeding the school systems with wave so as to create a generation of wave-savvy users. Amazing Brillance. This strategy of product proliferation will no doubt be studied as a strategy business case in the years to come. Sorry "email", Goodbye! Welcome Wave.

One "Wave" to rule them all.


  1. In my view, the beauty of wave is that there can not be one Wave to rule them all - federation is built-in from the beginning.

    There is a derivative benefit of school students getting a Google account. Since Google is an OpenID provider and IDs with a school domain name can be an age verification method for age appropriate material.

  2. So you can get the Google deal if you "block" all other forms of communication. So Google is setting itself up as a giant monopoly, a behemoth, and we're rejoicing? Imagine if Microsoft had tried this. The outcry would have been tremendous. And given how smart Google is, you can be sure the experience at this first school board will become a walking ad for the service. And so will be everywhere.

  3. This is very interesting. My daughter's high school has set Attendance Improvement and Credit Accumulation as two key goals for this school year - and the Principal has challenged the teachers to ask themselves what they're doing to make their classrooms more exciting, a place where students actually WANT to be. Increasing the use of Technology is definitely on the radar - I'm going to look into this more and provide input at the next School Council meeting. Thank you!

  4. Interesting Viewpoint.

    Old communication mechanisms are incredibly sticky. And the switching costs of existing users are expensive (even for Google).

    One of the easiest tactics to increase the user base is to get them young. This has been used to great success notably by Disney and infamously by cigarette manufacturers. Even lackluster industries like EDA do the same ;-)

    While I am impressed at the breadth of Google's strategy (and Google can afford it), I suspect Google is leading with the "Something for Nothing" approach to entice and acquire users. And given the budget crunch at most organizations, that may not be such a bad thing in the short run.

    My key concern with Wave is whether this new (and easier?) mode of collaborative communication will result in increased productive? Or is it even welcome considering the deluge of e-mails and IMs we are hit with everyday?

    Or am I showing my age ? ;-)

  5. CK,

    Thanks for the comments. To address your concern on the last paragraph, remember that when email came out it was a new mode & people moved from snail-mail and faxes to email.

    When email was disrupted by IM, people still used both and with IM if they preferred, set their status to away. But over time people adopted.

    I assume that the same kind of status messages such as "away", "working", "leave-me-alone" can be part of the new collaborative platform (i.e wave) to enable people to not be deluged by interruptions. Only time will tell.