Google Wave is about more than just a fancy new collaboration tool.
Yes, it's got people excited because of its groundbreaking ability to let users pull in all sorts of data, files, and email and chat clients onto a single surface that can be shared in real time. And since it's not even in beta, it's raising all kinds of questions ranging from scalability to security, all of which should be answered in good time.
But that's not why it's such a big deal. The real importance of Google Wave is how it will change where people do their work, and how that, in turn, will impact Microsoft.
Today, productivity tools are essentially synonymous with Microsoft Office; Word, PowerPoint, Excel – these brands have become synonymous with what they do, and most people can't imagine creating documents using any other tools. Corporate environments are also rife with SharePoint servers for collaboration – in fact, one of the problems IT administrators and compliance officers find is that they can't even keep track of the number of SharePoint instances in their environment.
If Wave is as successful as Google hopes, all of that changes, and Microsoft's stranglehold on productivity applications dissolves like sugar in water. Wave would get people used to working within a browser rather than on a desktop, and after a while, using Google Apps, spreadsheet and presentation tools will become as natural as using Microsoft's tools on the desktop seem today.
Eventually, executives will realize that they don't need to spend on as many Microsoft CALs, and that SharePoint is redundant with their needs. Slowly, as other online applications begin to proliferate within the enterprise, on-premise and desktop-based applications will become the province of truly specialized applications.
In other words, Wave is more than an application. It's even more than a platform that systems integrators can use to connect various cloud-based applications. It's the platform for an entirely new architecture of enterprise software.