Microsoft, Groove collaborate on integration kit

Microsoft Corp.'s $51 million investment in Groove Networks Inc. will bear more fruit this fall with the release of an integration kit that aims to help users collaborate on team projects.

The companies announced yesterday that Groove's flagship Workspace product is being integrated with Microsoft's SharePoint Team Services, a server-based technology that's being built into a variety of Microsoft products to facilitate collaboration through a team Web site. The SharePoint technology was first made available as a server extension to Microsoft's FrontPage Web authoring tool, and plans call for it to be part of the Windows server operating system by the middle of next year, said SharePoint product manager Trina Seinfeld.

Groove's integration kit, which is expected to be released this fall, will permit users to work off-line and then automatically synchronize their work to the team Web site when they return to a connected state. It also aims to allow users to work securely across company firewalls, so that workers from one company could collaborate with employees from another company. But they must both be running the 24MB Groove Workspace client, said Richard Eckel, a spokesman for Beverly, Mass.,-based Groove.

The standard edition of the Groove Workspace client sells for $49, and the professional edition costs $99. Eckel said it has yet to be determined if there will be a charge for the SharePoint Team Services/Groove Workspace integration kit.

Eckel said that Groove, working with Microsoft, wrote directly to the SharePoint Team Services application programming interfaces (API) to create the code that permits the creation of a one-to-one image of the entire team Web site.

"They're absolutely a dynamic duo. It's a wonderful product match, and they have very complementary capabilities," said Bruce Temkin, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, Mass. "But the announcement is ho-hum. It represents almost no commitment on Microsoft's part. The announcement represents some development work that Groove did with some support from Microsoft."

Temkin said that Microsoft has yet to make a commitment to the marketing and sales of the joint product. He labeled the announcement as a "toe dip," adding that "Microsoft ought to incorporate the basic technology into the SharePoint platform."

"At this point, it will only be of interest to people who have committed to Groove and are looking to also tie into SharePoint," he said. "If they have not committed to Groove yet, it has very little impact to them."

Seinfeld said there are many different groups within Microsoft talking to Groove about its peer-to-peer capabilities. "I think you will see more and more ways we're working together with Groove," she predicted.

She added that Microsoft worked with Groove to test the product and make sure developers were writing to the correct APIs. She said the company is also making customers and its field sales personnel aware of the integration kit.

"We encourage partners like Groove to develop on top of our platform," Seinfeld said.

Copyright © 2002 IDG Communications, Inc.

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