The story of the demise of Google Wave and Google CEO Eric Schmidt's remarks about the way that the public views technology, stirred something in the recesses of my brain.;

It took a few hours and then I remembered when I heard it before. In the story of the Sussex vampire, Sherlock Holmes talks to Watson about a ship "associated with the giant rat of Sumatra, a story for which the world is not yet prepared"

So, when Schmidt tells a conference "society really isn't prepared for all of the changes being thrust upon it. "I think it's time for people to get ready for it.", it's the giant rat all over again.

I'm not sure that the public's unwillingness to engage with technology can be blamed for the failure of Wave. I was a user and really struggled to find a way to justify it. For a day, I was like one of those early users of mobile phones ("Hello I'm on Wave...") but the novelty wore off and there was a general sense that it was a technology struggling to find an audience. I love playing with new technologies, but rather like Google's Buzz, couldn't seem to find a use for it.

I suspect, by the way, that if it were Microsoft pulling a technology after a year, there'd be a lot more adverse criticism of the company - Google must still have an enormous reservoir of good out there. That "Don't be evil" motto must have a lot of resonance.

But Schmidlt's comments are interesting. He seems to be making the case that Google Wave hasn't failed and that the users are not intellectually up for it/ not technologically aware enough. This dangerous talk. Technology companies should be serving their customers with appropriate technologies - there have been plenty of examples of technology being released before their time, for example, Centrex in the telecoms world in the 80s, but if they've got it wrong, technology shouldn't be blaming customers for their lack of foresight.

To compare with Microsoft once again, if Steve Ballmer had come out with such a statement, the blogosphere would be ringing with cries of indignation.

In one respect, Schmidt is right: the pace of technological change at the moment is leaving institutions flat-footed. We can see this in the way legislation can't handle technological change but to say that individual products have been unsuccessful because of the general public's lack of sophistication is not the way to go about building great relationships.

Actually, forget the giant rat; a more appropriate analogy would be Brecht's plea in his poem Solution when he exhorted a government that was dissatisfied with the way the people were behaving to elect a new electorate. That's not really an option open to Google - oh well, back to the giant rat.

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