Could this be the first major use spin-off to come from Google Wave?
The search giant has this week announced "a new Google Docs" integrating real time collaboration across documents, spreadsheets and presentations for the first time.
As always, the official Google video (embedded) does an excellent job outlining this with a minimum of marketing fluff and in practice what we see is character-by-character changes as collaborators make edits. To avoid confusion, Google has also introduced a sidebar chat area - in effect a simplified IM - so users can discuss documents as they work on them.
Interestingly, this collaboration can be used with Google's drawing tool too with real time work showing up on flow charts, designs, diagrams and free hand sketches. These drawings are easily added into documents, spreadsheets and presents with web clipboard.
Back in good old features land, we see better import/export fidelity as well to reduce incompatibilities between Docs and files created in the likes of Office and OpenOffice alongside real margins and tab stops. Meanwhile spreadsheets add that all important formula bar for cell editing, auto-complete and drag and drop columns while performance has been greatly improved so spreadsheets load quickly and scroll smoothly.
Despite all this goodness, there is one major caveat: Docs no longer works with Google Gears meaning no offline functionality for now. This isn't surprising since Google is canning Gears and it says this functionality will be replaced using HTML5 asap.
Revamped Docs is now online for both Google and Google Apps users and this all begs the question once more: can't we simply integrate Wave into Gmail and be done with it...?