So as I begin using the alpha version of Google Wave, I've been trying to figure out where it fits. After all, Docs and Wave do seem to overlap in at least one function, collaborating on documents. Here are some tentative thoughts I posted to my Twitter feed a couple of days ago:
- GDocs has better readout of revision history, but Wave alerts you to unseen changes and puts your collaborators across the top.
- GDocs embeds comments; Wave splits wave sections (blips) when you comment on a portion of the wave. Document vs. Hyperforum.
- Wave has stronger mashup potential because it doesn't closely imitate conventional docs. But it is weak now because extensions are scarce.
- GDocs is better for working with documents in more structured, turn-taking collaborations. Wave may be better in agile or synchronized collaboration.
- GDocs kills email pingpong (sending versions of documents as attachments, which leads to version control issues). Perhaps Wave kills the idea of documents?
Wave starts with collaboration, and adds capabilities to produce different sorts of genres within that collaborative paradigm. Documents are just one.
So Wave will have a higher learning curve (as I can attest) and will be less specialized for producing documents. Consequently, it's not as well honed for producing traditional documents. But it's a more general collaborative tool.
As Wave is developed, I expect that we'll see Google giving its API a workout to increase interoperability with GDocs and other services. But I'm not sure if we'll see a collapse between the services, which are still doing rather different things.