Catch the Wave

It’s a cold and rainy day today. We just had the freakiest hale storm I’ve seen in quite a while. It’s a good day to be inside. While watching the Jays get pounded by the Red Sox (man, they Jays need better pitching), I watched the Google Wave keynote from last week’s Google IO. BTW, I finally found a good use for twitter as I followed a couple of guys I know who were there who kept us up to date on what was going on. That was good because the video didn’t show the standing O that the presentors got (it was good but standing O good?)

Anyway, I am quite impressed by the workflows and concepts behind Wave. If you haven’t seen it yet, Wave is really just a good realization of collaboration tooling that we kind of see in IBM’s Jazz, but more general. You could also see it as a redesign of e-mail systems to take into account and interface with or replace all the other social networking tools out there. The coolest feature is the real-time collaboration you can do, and of course, the API that allows you to play in this world too.

We’ve talked about IDE in the cloud a bit in Eclipse and, while not for everyone, I think it has potential. And Google Wave seems like a good framework to make this happen. Add an extension to interact with a server side Eclipse, and you get instant integration with the rest of your collaboration tools. Interesting potential.

But there was something else that struck me. Google is open sourcing pretty much all of this. They want to build Wave as an ecosystem to get as many people working through their browser as possible. I still haven’t figure out how that makes Google money, but I’m sure there’s a master plan at work there. But one thing you’ll notice, is that Google worked for two years behind closed doors before pushing it out. This is the same way IBM put together Eclipse, how QNX pushed out CDT. It happens a lot.

And that got me thinking. Is this the only way innovation happens, i.e., in closed environments. How much innovation really happens in open source projects or at least how efficient is it? Realistically, it’s a lot less than you’d think. Innovation happens when get get a crack team together in a highly collaborative environment where you don’t need to spend time working with a community of diverse interests. So while open source helps make a technology popular, I don’t think it’s possible to create it there. But maybe that’s stating the obvious.