Massucci's Take: Google Wave is email for the next generation

There is a lot of buzz these days over a new product called Google (GOOG) Wave. Some are under the false impression that it's the next Twitter, but this new tool from Google is very different. Think of it as a real-time collaboration tool that includes, among its many features, email on steroids.

Greg Dalesandre, Google Wave product manager, in an online video, describes Wave as a "shared space," where users can communicate using text, videos, photos and maps. So you can have a conversation while working on a document with a group of people in another city -- or in another part of the planet. You can both work together in real time using richly formatted text, photos, videos and more. The wave is the shared experience that you are involved with. So you could be working with 10 people and everything you do -- from the conversations you have to the changes you make to a document, will be inside a wave. What's really cool about this is that the wave allows you to rewind, allowing you to see who said what when. Since everything is in real-time -- it's fast.
For now, Google Wave, which launched Oct. 1 from Sydney, Australia, doesn't show off its potential because it is being tested by a limited group of users. But Aaron Baldwin-Simon, who's using Google Wave in Port Charlotte, Florida, said he sees massive potential for the product. "Once Google irons out any bugs and invites more people, this will explode," says Baldwin-Simon. "It will be an indispensable tool."

Google is seeking feedback from initial users like Baldwin-Simon and me, in an effort to improve the service before rolling it out to millions. "It has the potential to be great for instantly connecting and exchanging ideas with friends and co-workers," says Sukhjit Ghag, social media evangelist at Sony Electronics. She had the benefit of having friends on Google Wave who gave her tips on how to use it after she received her invite and joined.

Google Wave is the brainchild of the two brothers, Lars and Jens Rasmussen, who also created Google Maps. Now, the hope is that Google Wave will leap far ahead of other email-like services, perhaps emulating the success of products such as Google Maps. It could happen -- it will likely take years for other email services to be able to incorporate the features that Wave now has.

But there are risks. Google needs to be able to maintain a certain excitement for this new product, even before it is available to everyone. By rolling it out in a slow-drip fashion, the company risks that some will feel snubbed and write it off because they weren't initially invited to the party. I predict that those folks will join the Wave, because the rewards of what Google Wave has to offer as email for the next generation far outweigh the risks. Once millions join, others will join the Wave as easily as they signed up for an email account. Folks will wonder how they ever emailed the old-fashioned way, as we do today. The change will be significant, akin to telling your kids how you used to have to get up to change the channel or turn off the television. When they hear such things, kids look at you and wonder why you'd ever buy such a product in the first place. Google Wave will have that same eye-opening impact on email in the future.

Anthony Massucci is a senior writer and columnist for DailyFinance. You may follow him on Twitter at hianthony.
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