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Google Wave reality check

Today Google announced its 5000th product that yet again isn’t part of its core business and, therefore, will most likely not be nearly as impressive or useful as it appears to be at its unveiling: Google Wave (links of interest about Google Wave are over at Obsessable, and there’s an official post about it over at Google’s official blog). Google Wave’s also been riding top of Techmeme since it was announced.

Reality check: It’s not been released yet. It’s only been announced. It’s also being discussed as something cool for developers first and foremost with no set release date:

If you’d like to be notified when we launch Google Wave as a public product, you can sign up at http://wave.google.com/. We don’t have a specific timeframe for public release, but we’re planning to continue working on Google Wave for a number of months more as a developer preview. We’re excited to see what feedback we get from our early tinkerers, and we’ll undoubtedly make lots of changes to the Google Wave product, platform, and protocol as we go.

Translation: “We’re releasing this product to developers in the hopes that someone outside of us makes it useful.” or, perhaps, “We’re releasing this product as a developer preview in the hopes that someone outside of us makes it useful enough to release it before Google Chrome is released for the Mac or Linux.”

Google has great ideas and great products, but many of its products get stuck in the beta loop forever and fail to catch on after making a big splash at announcement time. If Google manages to actually show some follow-through and deliver an innovative product that answers the problems of IM and email, I’ll be very surprised, albeit pleased by the development. However, I’m extremely skeptical of a program that was originally called “Walkabout” and is now called “Wave” being a priority to a company that is oh-so-focused on numbers, data points, and, most importantly, money.

Aside: I hope you enjoy the horrible flash animation that accompanies this post. I made it back in 2001 or 2002. It also is called “Wave,” and, as you can see, I didn’t really bother to finish it.

Update: After discussing this at length with others since posting this last night (and seeing the TechCrunch story about it), I realized I left one big part of this out: Google announced Wave simply to ruin Microsoft’s Bing announcement yesterday. Good strategic move on Google’s part, but I still am very skeptical that they will follow through with it long term.

Update #2: The Google Wave demo video is now live and embedded below:

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