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Google boss Eric Schmidt has labelled Wave, which the company just ditched, “a very clever product”.

He was speaking to reporters at the Techonomy conference yesterday, just hours after the Mountain View Chocolate Factory confirmed that it was dumping Wave because no one was tinkering with the minimalist and very shaky real-time collaboration tool.

This reporter presaged Wave’s demise way back in January, so it's hardly surprising to see Google finally ‘fess up that the tool isn't everything the company had hoped it would be.

In a classic PR lesson in face-saving, Schmidt tried to recast Wave’s failure as proof that the world’s largest ad broker was willing to live dangerously.

"Our policy is we try things," he told reporters, according to CNet’s Ina Fried.

"We celebrate our failures. This is a company where it is absolutely OK to try something that is very hard, have it not be successful, take the learning and apply it to something new." He then added that even though Wave never gained any interest from Google fans, it remained “a very clever product”. Perhaps it was just ahead of the curve, eh, Eric?

"We liked the [user interface] and we liked a lot of the new features in it [but] didn't get enough traction, so we are taking those technologies and applying them to new technologies that are not announced. We'll get the benefit of Google Wave but it won't be as a separate product."

All of which hints that Google is indeed beavering away at a social networking site that it hopes will unseat Facebook.

Then there’s the company’s privacy-lite, horribly creepy Buzz, which in contrast is here to stay.

"Today Buzz is really an extension of Gmail," said Schmidt, who also claimed the tool now has tens of millions of users.

It’s hard to say how many of those people are in fact unwittingly signed into Buzz, which Google stealthily slotted into Gmail at the start of this year without first testing it as a separate product.

But bolting Buzz directly onto Gmail was always going to give the Web2.0 tool a head start in terms of usage, no matter how many complaints from privacy watchdogs that stacked up in the process.

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