Google Wave killed to focus on the Aussie NBN?


It is well known that Google recently killed their implementation of Wave. It is also well known that Australia’s current Labor government has currently promised to build a $43 billion Fibre-To-The-Home National Broadband Network (NBN). The first nodes are now operational in Tasmania, with (hopefully) much more to come.

It has recently been announced that the NBN will improve its coverage to 93% of the population, and deliver even higher speeds of up to 1000 Mbps (up from 100 Mbps). That’s the same speed promised by Google’s experimental network in the USA for 50,000 to 500,000 people, except it’s potentially on the scale of up to 93% of 22.4 million people. I don’t think anyone at Google Australia missed this…the right kind of sufficiently pure fibre should be capable of 50Gbps or maybe even much more.

Even if only a small portion of Australians actually take up the offer it could easily be on par with the US experiment. If Google, with some of the cleverest engineers on the planet figures out killer apps for Aussie blokes and sheilas and their real families…there’s an easy roadmap for taking the experiment to a level that’s an order of magnitude larger.

However there’s a huge risk – an upcoming election on August 21st, 2010. If the Coalition wins the election, it has promised to kill the NBN, replacing it with a $6.3 billion patchwork of technologies. What does this mean for corporations like Google? Uncertainty – perhaps the single most destructive force for business. Why? Because as a business you can’t easily justify the longer term investments that are often the most productive and profitable. For Google that might mean committing engineers to bandwidth-intensive next generation consumer and enterprise apps instead of whatever more mundane tasks need doing (like babysitting Wave?).

What would a Labor victory deliver? Governments tend to move slowly, by the time of the next election enough of the network will actually have been built (since we’re already about 1 year into the estimated 8 year rollout period) that it will be effectively completed, almost no matter what happens in the election after.

So was the death of Google Wave a coincidence or a masterful strategic move?

Killing Wave frees up dozens, perhaps hundreds of Google employees in Sydney who were working on Wave, likely as their 80% project, to think about and work on architecting, designing and constructing the next generation of applications for the post-NBN world. And that means these Googlers and anyone else in the technology industry may have a huge experimental playground for building things like GoogleTV, videoconferencing, enterprise and cloud services, maybe even healthcare and educational applications or entirely novel things we can barely imagine.

Of course, it depends on how Australians vote on August 21st. Who knows what some of the best engineers and PhD’s could come up with on the next generation of network?

Smart people + passion + bandwidth = ?

Personally I’m excited to think of what might be in the pipeline. Whether this was a happy accident, a random coincidence or a master stroke of genius, I say bring on the innovation!

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