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Innovation

EtherJet does the Google Wave

If the media reports are accurate the price is sofa-cushion money. For this Google gets an MIT-led development team with some good people in Sydney, Australia, to work on Wave.
Written by Dana Blankenhorn, Inactive on

A fast-growing company with a cost advantage can make what may be non-strategic investments appear frightening to rivals when it's just hoarding talent.

Microsoft used to do this, now Google can afford to.

So while analysts are alternately fretting and cheering over Google's reported $10 million purchase of AppJet, maker of EtherPad, it's best not to over-react.

If the media reports are accurate the price is pocket change for Google, sofa-cushion money. For this the company gets an MIT-led development team with some good people in Sydney, Australia, to work on Google Wave.

Wave seems to be of keen interest to CEO Eric Schmidt, who has called it "the future of collaboration." Schmidt has been pushing the idea since the 1990s, when he was best known as the "father of Java" over at Sun Microsystems, before he was recruited to be CEO of Novell and long before Google made him a billionaire.

Massive, real-time collaboration is something enterprises strive for, but most don't achieve it, partly because they don't spend much on the tools, in either money or training effort, partly because the claims of collaboration advocates have long been ahead of reality.

Google has the global infrastructure that can make this work, and EtherPad is an interesting tool to try this with.  Its "time-slider" feature that lets groups track changes and past archives is especially interesting. It's version control that can let you do an autopsy after your project goes toes-up.

It's also likely that AppJet needs Google more than Google needs AppJet. Its first instinct on getting the news Friday was to start shutting down, figuring on a re-launch this spring on Google.

Then the company suddenly noticed it had customers, and said it was coming back up immediately. Pesky customers, they actually bought the start-up hype? Well, let's keep the barn open while we build the sets for Broadway.

Putting the code under an open source license and tossing it onto Wave in March also makes the whole thing sound more like a work-in-progress than a going concern.

My guess is AppJet learned it needs massive amounts of fast connectivity to ever have something truly worthwhile, so Google is a lifeline.

And at $10 million it's cheap as chips.

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