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Google Wave has developers buzzing

The search giant's ambitious Google Wave project has developers at Google I/O mulling the possibilities, and even comparing it to the iPhone.

The support of developers at Google I/O could make or break Google Wave, and the early returns are positive. Stephen Shankland/CNET

SAN FRANCISCO--When developers are comparing your new product to the unveiling of the iPhone, you know you've probably got something on your hands.

Such was the reaction at Google I/O in the hours following Google's first demonstration of Google Wave, a bid to redefine the way people communicate on the Internet by blending e-mail, instant messaging, file sharing, and collaboration software into one service. Following a session in which developers were given a peek under the hood at the technology and what it might let them do, several were quite impressed and already pondering what Google Wave would allow them to create.

"I haven't been this jazzed since the release of the iPhone," said Michael Rexroad, a software engineer with Cisco's telepresence systems business unit. He was referring to the way ideas immediately sprung to mind Thursday morning regarding how to use the technology demonstrated Thursday to create new types of applications, much the same way Apple's first public demonstration of the iPhone in January 2007 inspired a generation of software developers.

Developer support is crucial to the success of Google Wave. The company is releasing Wave as a developer preview to attendees on Thursday, and it is still filled with lots of rough edges, bugs, and incomplete details.

But the genius behind Google Wave is not in the individual parts, rather in the way Google has assembled a set of existing technologies into an attractive platform for developers, said Andreas Schobel, chief technology officer for mobile start-up 3Banana.

Google Wave demo
A demo of Google Wave at Google I/O James Martin/CNET

Schobel compared Wave to how Google Maps (perhaps not coincidentally developed by the same people behind Google Wave) awoke developers to the possibilities presented by Ajax technologies, which had been around for some time but had yet to gain traction as some of the core technologies used to build the modern Web.

Daniel Jefferies, president of Newmind Group, a Google Apps reseller, is not a developer, but was intrigued by the possibility of using Wave as an internal tool for improving the productivity of his company. Newmind provides consulting services for helping small and medium businesses implement Google Apps inside their groups, and thought he could better manage his team, their tasks, and their relationships with clients with this sort of tool.

Perhaps the most ringing endorsement came from a software engineer employed by one of Google's rivals, who declined to be identified for obvious reasons. "This will revolutionize e-mail," he said.

While that may be a stretch at this juncture, developers filling the halls of the Moscone Center are definitely buzzing about Google Wave.