Anyone who thought Google might grow complacent in the face of their continued success wasn’t banking on the curveball they threw today. Stealing any thunder Microsoft might have managed to generate for Bing, day 2 of the Google I/O conference saw the announcement of a new collaborative communications platform, Wave. Designed by the development team behind Google Maps, Wave is designed to be an evolution of email and IM.

Wave allows groups to work together in the same web environment, throwing images, photos and videos into a shared conversation stream. The concept is essentially the same as a FriendFeed group, with the same realtime multimedia flow. However, while FriendFeed is geared up for threaded discussions similar to the bulletin boards of yore, Google Wave seems like it will be more suitable to an on-going teamworking environment. Interestingly, a ‘replay’ function is available, allowing the evolution of a conversation to be reviewed later.

Speaking to Michael Arrington, Lars Rasmussen from the development team explained that because it integrates email as well as a realtime workflow Wave allows “Synchronous and asynchronous (communication) in the same conversation. And you can switch back and forth, depending who is online at any one time”.

Beyond being just a standard Google product like Maps or Reader, Wave is designed to be a platform. A collection of rich APIs is being made available allowing developers to integrate Twitter clients, Sudoku games or anything else they like, directly into users’ Waves. As it’s an open standard, third party Wave clients could be created, allowing users to contribute to the same Wave from computers and mobiles freely, regardless of OS.The potential here is huge. One market that will be likely to lap this up is journalists who could collaborate on the same story from multiple locations, all into the same stream. Wave-powered election night coverage, for example, could be highly effective. Group gaming is another area where Wave could be useful.

No release date for Google Wave has been announced, but you can register your interest today at http://wave.google.com. A video demonstration is due to be posted there shortly. Developers wanting to get stuck into the APIs can find all manner of information over at the Google Blog.