Google releases a new communications platform, called Wave, at the end of this month. Developed by the team that created Google Maps, it promises to be a game-changer in web interactivity, with character-by-character (think chat) updating of shared documents online, highly interactive forums, and drag and drop capability. Want to put a picture on the web? Drop it into a wave in your browser. It is open source, and will be embraced by developers in much the same way as jQuery.
In the 1990′s, I worked on numerous event projects with Sun Microsystems. Their tagline, “The Network is the Computer” was prophetic, if not about fifteen years ahead of its time. I recall laying out CAT 5 networks for groups of internet appliances called Sun Rays. Sun was pushing companies to drop the PC (and all of the IT headaches) in favor of their solution, where applications and storage all ran on a central server.
The other night, Charlie Rose hosted Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, followed by a taped interview with Bill Gates, Chairman of Microsoft. Eric spent his time talking about Google’s plans to reach into mobile (where the digital divide is being conquered), extend search beyond text, convert the world’s books into electronic, and provide a service that would anticipate your needs and provide you with information based on your interests and location. Gates talked about replacing white boards with some kind of shared workspace in Microsoft Office.
Clearly, there is a divergence of opinions about what the next big thing should be.
A natural market force is moving us away from the PC and toward the internet appliance that Sun tried so hard to promote. Smart phones and netbooks are replacing the PC, and advances like Google Wave are going to make our computing experience with these simple devices more interactive and enriching than ever before.