Google doesn’t understand social or collaboration. There’s not much more to it than that, though for the sake of making this a an actual blog post I’ll explain a bit more.
Blogger was huge, it was the place to go if you were creating a blog. There weren’t many www.mybloghere.com, many of the largest most popular blogs on the internet were on blogger. People had accounts, people registered to post comments, people had full fledged profiles that could have easily preceded a facebook profile page. Google bought blogger and had more than enough resources to grow blogger into a sizable social community. But if you visit it looks much the same as it did 5 and almost 10 years ago.
Google spreadsheets is one of the best online spreadsheet programs, and you can even collectively work on a spreadsheet with others at the same time thousands of miles away. Who do you know that uses google spreadsheets that isn’t some form of a techie? It likely has a user base of under 1% of users of spreadsheets, and its not because it’s missing the power features of pivot tables and such. If you re-brand it as a collaboration tool when working and throw chat/video/whiteboarding in the same application google would have an instant growth 10 fold of users, but they don’t understand that a user seeing the same thing on a spreadsheet and seeing what the other types in a single document isn’t collaboration!
To jump ahead of the curve, counter arguments I’ve already heard are around ads and gmail. Gmail, google didn’t improve email, they simply give you lots of space for free, if gmail were to cease to exist tomorrow users would simply jump over to yahoo or microsoft. Ads, google changed the ad industry by making search effective, they’re good at algorithms and such, but they don’t get users and collaboration, and at their current rate they never will.
Wave isn’t meant to just improve email, it’s meant to be a tool for collaboration, to view a conversation as an entity, and google just doesn’t get the conversation part.