I think a so far underhyped aspect of Google Wave is that it has huge potential for integration of communication and applications – and applications does not mean Twitter or a blog engine this time, but brick-and-mortar LOB enterprise applications.
A reoccurring use case is that people want to be updated when things are happening within their little business kingdom, and to have a way to directly react without having to leave the context of the communication application they’re currently working with. Today, you see this demand normally satisfied by an Outlook plug-in, or some awkward e-mail parsing.
Wave offers a much more elegant solution. It offers two important extensibility features:
- Robots. Server-side application modules can take part in a Wave, and create new ones. This is the technology that enables the Twitter and Blogger integration shown in the demos.
- Gadgets. A gadget is a client-side piece of user interface that provides data visualization and manipulation other than text – you see examples for this in the Yes/No/Maybe or Maps gadgets.
Via a robot, the application can create new wave messages, and react to changes in its content. Using a gadget, the application can provide a structured visualization for data, and more importantly: a structured way for the user to provide feedback, that does not require parsing text.
For example, a manager at a bike shop could be informed by a wave if the stock of spokes is below the critical level. The wave includes a gadget that includes a “Order new spokes” button. When the manager clicks the button, the gadget changes the content of the wave, the robot catches that change, and informs the ERP solution to get moving.
I think we’ll see a lot of great deal of things like that once Wave becomes ready for business – and that’s probably not before there are implementations of Wave not owned and run by Google. But that’s another story.