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Google Wave Progress Report: 'No Killer App Yet'

Google Wave may have a brilliant future, but its present is frustrating developers who've had a chance to work with it.

Ben Rometsch, director of the Solid State Group, told me that the Wave user interface "yearns for super-fast Javascript performance," but doesn't get it, is very slow to debug and offers a "protracted and painful" development cycle. As he described working with Wave, which is currently in developer preview, the words "slow," "protracted" and "painful" cropped up more than once. Granted, all the developers in the world share a single instance running on one server, but frustrating developers you depend on to drive adoption of this application isn't the smartest strategy ever devised.

Google should take this feedback to heart: Wave "could be a massive failure." Rometsch blogged about Wave enthusiastically when he first got his hands on it, and his firm resells Google Apps packages to corporate customers, so he can't be counted a Google Hater. Nevertheless, he said Wave "isn't really doing anything significantly well enough to change people from using email or Skype. You never know, in five years time it could be defunct."

That perspective should be hugely worrying to Google. Google's aim isn't to generate revenues directly from Wave, but to make it the fulcrum of its everyone-onboard-the-Web, anti-Microsoft (and particularly anti-Office and anti-SharePoint) strategy. And while Google controls Wave's destiny to a certain extent -- it will almost certainly release it to the public as a perpetual "beta" in early 2010 -- but it depends on shops like Solid State to add value and propagate it.

Rometsch's biggest gripe by far was the tediously slow development cycle, caused in large part by the fact that there's no testing process to simulate a live environment. This is in large part due to the fact that Wave is running on a single instance shared by every developer with an invitation to test the application, and that Google hasn't released the source code that would allow Rometsch to bring Wave in-house for testing.

As a result, the debug cycle is really slow because Rometsch has to reload the program, wait for it to reload remotely, and then "go into the app itself and interact with it and see what happens. Because you're not running in a local environment, you have your hands tied," he said.

So while Google needs the likes of Solid State to evangelize Wave, that cheerleading may not be forthcoming unless testing and implementation environments change. Rometsch told me that it's very important to his organization to figure out how to be able to extend Wave and integrate it with other Google services like calendaring and shared authoring of documents . "We're still trying to figure out where the most benefit is going to come from," he told me.

He told me it's hard to come up with a list of things you could do with Wave. "There hasn't been any sort of light bulb switched off--no killer app yet," he said.

[Image courtesy of Solid State Group]

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