(Gone) Before Its Time

As bold the eulogies were when it was announced, they’re even bolder now that Google Wave‘s end as an independent service has been proclaimed. Undoubtedly it’s tool that provided the sought-after curve-jumping, paradigm-shifting innovation which by itself was hard enough for people to wrap their heads around. But I believe what really prevented the breakthrough was a lack of trust. Google still has a major trust problem, and as long as people are suspicious about what’s happening with all their data, a product that deals with such better be trustworthy.

And it’s also worth a look at the marketing startegy that went with it: Google was quite eager to announce it when Wave was still in alpha. And it was a marvel. Then they released the invitation-based beta which still had a lot of glitches and hickups and one year later it was open for public. Which was too late. It’s always easy to be clever in hindsight, but the important thing to point out here is that there was no need whatsoever for Google to tell the public about Wave, because until today there is no competitor. Why hurry? They could easily have waited one more year and make it a finished product.

One more thing. As far as I remember, they didn’t promote it heavily once it was up and running, which wouldn’t have been the worst of ideas. I’m not talking TV here, I’m about press releases for the geeks that want to use this service asĀ  soon as they have someone to do it with. I didn’t use my account because there was no one I was having a project with that would have offered itself to be run on Wave. But if I had, it’d be comforting my sleep a lot had Google told me: “We know there’ve been some issues concerning our security in the last months, but we promise you that your Wave data is 100% safe with us. We use advanced rocket science encryption, so even we don’t know what you’ve been putting in there.” Now you’ve got something to work through the adoption curve.

The majority of users, it seems, is still in the desktop age. This is the domain of Microsoft. Make a document, save it on your hard drive or local network. One application for each purpose. Sifting through 86 emails to find out who said what and when. It’s the classic switching dilemma: As long as their pain is not big enough to see the comfort of the solution, people don’t switch. Because it requires them to take a step back and consider the whole issue. The question is not: “How do I make this work with what I got so far?” but “Looking at both solutions as a whole, which serves my needs best?” That’s the marketing challenge not only Google faces. Only more often than others.

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