For those of you wondering why Google hasn't been even more aggressive in its development of the already best-in-show Gmail platform via the integration of its diverse web app suite, the answer appears to lie in a forthcoming product called Google Wave, announced just an hour ago, that takes all-in-one, customizable webapp integration to the next level to consolidate all of your Google-based conversation, collaboration, gaming and geo-spatial interaction into discrete "waves" of information.
In other words, rather than continuing to build onto a focused and already successful email product, potentially 1) overcomplicating it for certain users and 2) remaining stuck in an old product frame, Google Wave will sit atop apps like Gmail, Chat, Status Messages, Docs, Widgets, Friend Connect, Blogger, Calendar, Reader, Maps, Earth and perhaps even Facebook competitor Orkut, allowing you to mix the info flows in one central location.
Here's a snapshot of one version of the potentially revolutionary Wave interface:
It's no accident that Google's Wave announcement was made simultaneous to Microsoft's unveiling of its new Bing search engine, which is getting "nice improvement, but I'll stick with Google" reviews. My bet is that Wave will mark a far more disruptive forward step in the web experience because of its focus on fundamentally better user:info interaction.
Google's message rings loud and clear: "Microsoft, while you're playing catch-up in search, we're utilizing our already massive and debugged app suite to develop entire new products and integrated search data. Spend all the money you want on Bing marketing, it's going to take you years to develop the structured prosumer data necessary to meaningfully compete."
Of course, the message actually posted was far more Googly:
Google: "Wave is a new model for communication and collaboration on the web, coming later this year. Here's a preview of just some of the aspects of this new tool."
Further adding strength to the oncoming Wave is the fact that it's being released as an open model, similar to mobile phone OS Android (18 different Android phones will be released in 2009, others are using it for netbooks) and Chrome (already superior in speed and function to Internet Explorer), that developers can modify and integrate into their own sites. By keeping its great googly eye on the information prize and relinquishing development sovereignty and near-term income, Google seems to be out-futuring its competitors on most fronts.
Prosumer Takeaways: So what will Wave mean for you?
- A next-level conversational experience. Reduced app switch-through time. One-stop shop. Ideal for collaboration. Big time saver.
- More organized personal data. Relevant past items will pop up in appropriate new "waves" automatically. Big time saver. Powerful memory aid.
- A big improvement in personally relevant search. If you opt in, the social-info graph cobbled together by Wave will increase your Google search efficiency. Time saver. Intelligence amplifier.
- A centralized application through which you can monetize your scattered content in a variety of ways via the ever-evolving AdSense. Essentially a better way to monetize prosumer value creation and behavior. Gradually more $$$ in your pocket.
Update: Here's a solid description of the philosophy behind the service by Google's Lars Rasmussen.
Update #2: TechCrunch has a great vid interview up featuring the founding Wave developer team.
Update #3: Google founder Sergei Brin, who's working hands-on with Wave, believes the product will do very well, creating a new "benchmark for interactivity". The stickier it is, the better for the Big G.