To many the answer to the question "What do Salesforce.com's Chatter, Google Wave, and the Apple iPhone/iPad have in common?" may be pretty obvious: they all enable collaboration, they are all re-inventing a market where innovation meant a new feature every two years, and perhaps you even answered with a more emotional response like — they are all pretty cool. In Chatter's case, cool is very seldom heard in the world of Enterprise software. I guess, that along is a….well….pretty cool thing
In short, the answers above are all correct, but they were not the answer I came up with after test driving the IPad over the weekend at the San Luis Obispo Apple Store.
First, let's think about things a little differently. Put the unquestioned power of social networking and collaboration aside for a minute, and the fact that social networking is now more popular than email. To me, the answer to the question is that all of the technologies above are convenient and function.
Let's start with the IPad: it is the shiny new thing that everyone wants, so its a good place to start. It is undoubtably cool, but it is cool because it makes getting your apps, emails, and internet as easy as swiping your finger. What's more it that is convenient because it fits in your hand. I own a MacBook Air for the convenience. I write books, and I travel. I want to be able to write where-ever I am, and I can tell you from experience, that a 17" Macbook—despite the fact it contains enough raw power to run a city—is not very convenient. The Air is. But, that too, is not always the most convenient when pressed for time.
Consider when the wheels touch down after a long flight. You have about 10 minutes to check your email before you have to grab your bags and shuffle out into the terminal. Even the iPad might not be convenient enough for you— you need something that will fit in your pocket. Perhaps something like the IPhone with its thousands of apps?
Is my answer starting to make sense now? Convienience often trumps function. Consider how long we have been texting before full-keyboard smart phones?
Have you heard of keitai shousetsu? In Japan, half of the top selling novels are written on mobile phones! I bet it's not the fact that the phone is a better platform for writing books (being a writer myself i can say for a fact I would go barking mad before I finished the first chapter of one of my books if I had to write it on a phone!) Again, the answer is convenience. You always have you phone with you, you always make sure it is charged, and it fits in your pocket.
When convenience and functionality come together, however, amazing things happen.
All of the technology in our initial question fall into this convergence of convenience and functionality. And that's why I chose them for this blog post. Google Wave re-invents the game in how we think about email. We are used to email being universally accessible on a server (I never delete my Gmail for example), that wasn't the problem Google Wave was trying to solve. The problem was that traditional email was like holding a conversation with a pen pal via snail mail. It was rewarding, but painful. With email, the situation was much better—it solved the delay between sending your letter, and receiving a response, but the conversation was lost somewhere in between my deleted items, inbox, and sent items. When I need to invest in a technology just to find my messages, the systemic problem is not being solved. Many social networking sites still suffer from this problem. Have you ever tried to find a message you posted to someone's wall six months ago on Facebook?
Now are you starting to see the problem?
Social search is getting better, and I suspect this will be a big focus of innovation over the next few years. Google Wave, while not in the same category as a social networking site, certainly makes it convenient to keep the context of the conversation; Plus it allows the experience to be enriched with other mediums like video, voice etc. through Gadgets and Robots. Wave solves the convenience factor of email conversations.
Salesforce.com Chatter is similar to Google Wave. The real power of Chatter is how easy and convenient it is for records, and the information itself to inform people (subscribers) that something has changed. When I log into Salesforce.com in the morning, I no longer have run a report, see the changes on an account etc. etc. I just look at my feeds. Chatter will undoubtably evolve to make searching and conversations easier and more intuitive, but it eliminates the pain of informing your team, or virtual team, of changes. Chatter makes it convenient to make updates, and to stay up to date. What's more the convenience of mobile accessibility, the fact that thousands of customers already use Salesforce.com for their daily jobs (convenience + function) make Chatter a sure fire gold-mine in many user's eyes.
Before I write a thesis on the topic, I need to draw the threads of my argument together. Here goes:
Great apps and software change the what we think about what we do. They make it easy. They make it convenient. Killer apps are the ones that make us forget overnight how we used to do things.
Do you remember the last time you got up and changed the dial on your T.V. instead of reaching for the remote? Convenience is king.