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    <p>On March&nbsp;10 of this year, <a title="Microsoft" href="http://www.microsoft.com/" target="_blank">Microsoft</a> <a href="http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/press/2005/mar05/03-10GroovePR.asp">released a press statement</a> that they had acquired <a href="http://www.groove.net/">Groove Networks</a>.&nbsp; We know what Microsoft is, but do you know what Groove is?&nbsp; Groove centers around something they call the &ldquo;virtual office.&rdquo;&nbsp; So what&rsquo;s that?&nbsp; In today&rsquo;s interconnected world where&nbsp;information workers (IW&rsquo;s)&nbsp;work together but not necessarily in the same physical location, various types of information are passed back and forth.&nbsp; You communicate with email, email&nbsp;alerts, and instant messages, all the while passing along documents, project plans, sketches from white-board sessions, etc.&nbsp; Passing this information back and forth, the the medium in which you do it, can be called a virtual office.&nbsp; </p>
    <p><em>&ldquo;OK, got it&hellip; soooooo&hellip; back to my question&hellip; what is Groove?&rdquo;</em>&nbsp;Groove is a client that all members of a team would install on their workstations.&nbsp; It then allows you to create workspaces which are then accessible from anyone who has been invited to have access and contribute to the workspace.&nbsp; Workspaces can be anything from shared calendars or file shares, to multiuser environments used to collaborate &amp; bring data under one roof.&nbsp; The Groove client allows you to work with workspaces either online/offline and&nbsp;see the online status of all your team members&hellip; all without the complexity of firewalls and VPN connections.&nbsp; You can also create custom workspace types using the Groove SDK&hellip; these can be built using VS <a title="" href="http://msdn.microsoft.com/netframework/" target="_blank">.NET</a> and the <a title="" href="http://msdn.microsoft.com/netframework/" target="_blank">.NET</a> Framework.</p>
    <p>One other nugget of info: Groove CEO, Ray Ozzie (who was named Microsoft CTO in the acquisition, is also the brain who started Lotus Domino and it&rsquo;s version of shared workspaces).</p>
    <p>In the <a href="http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/features/2005/apr05/04-08Groove.asp">MSFT PressPass</a>, Microsoft stated that the immediate plans are to keep the current packaging of Groove where clients are sold stand-alone and merge it into the Office System.&nbsp; In fact, there is a single session at the <a href="http://msdn.microsoft.com/events/pdc/">PDC in Los Angeles</a> this year that talks about creating Groove applications.</p>
    <p>It&rsquo;s no secret that <a title="" href="http://www.microsoft.com/office/sharepoint/prodinfo/overview.mspx" target="_blank">SharePoint</a> has a very promising future within the portals group of the Office System group.&nbsp; In fact, SharePoint is the fastest growing product in the history of Microsoft.&nbsp; SharePoint, at it&rsquo;s very core, revolves around the concept of small team sites (WSS).&nbsp; Even SharePoint Portal Server is based off these team sites as every area &amp; subarea is actually a special team site under the covers.&nbsp; Sure SharePoint has some nice hooks into Office 2003 applications, most notably Outlook, but also Word &amp; Excel, but this integration is quite loose and limited.&nbsp; Most of the time you need to be connected in order for any of the think client experience&hellip; it&rsquo;s not a very offline-friendly application&hellip; virtually everything in SharePoint is done using the web UI.</p>
    <p>This is where I see the Groove acquisition making a profound impact&hellip; in fact, I see it as the &ldquo;killer app&rdquo; or &ldquo;silver bullet&rdquo; for SharePoint.&nbsp; Why?&nbsp; How similar are the concepts of Groove workspaces and SharePoint team sites?&nbsp; Sure, there are tons of differences&hellip; it&rsquo;s much easier to pull a new web part into a team site to create a little data silo, wrapped up in some pretty views.&nbsp; What if Groove was able to consider a team site a workspace?&nbsp; What if, this application called SharePoint (WSS or <a title="" href="http://office.microsoft.com/home/office.aspx?assetid=FX010909721033" target="_blank">SPS</a>) that is almost viral in nature in many organizations&hellip; what if IW&rsquo;s could take their team sites with them when they were off the corporate network?&nbsp; What if you needed to access something while in a meeting, on the plane, or at a customer site?&nbsp; Groove could be smart enough to know what&rsquo;s changed both on your PC and in the workspace when you reconnect.</p>
    <p>How big would that be?&nbsp; Offline SharePoint!&nbsp; &ldquo;Uh, it&rsquo;s not that big of a deal, web access to SharePoint is good enough.&rdquo;&nbsp; I&rsquo;ve heard that before&hellip; and every time I disagree.&nbsp; Granted, the order of their appearance isn&rsquo;t the same as Groove &amp; SharePoint, but consider Outlook and OWA.&nbsp; Can&rsquo;t you do *just about* anything in OWA that you can do in Outlook?&nbsp; Sure!&nbsp; But if so, why is the client so much more popular?&nbsp; Because it&rsquo;s a thick client and can do a better job of getting information to the user&rsquo;s eyes faster than a web client.</p>
    <p>How different is Groove from Outlook, and SharePoint from OWA?&nbsp; In my mind, not much.&nbsp; There are hurdles to overcome&hellip; the biggest bring resolution of conflicts when an offline &amp; online user have updated a document, or a task, or any data element.&nbsp; It&rsquo;s also a bit of a different model, where Outlook allows a single user to interact with their single mailbox (yes, there are exceptions) whereas SharePoint is designed to facilitate collaboration of many players and Groove would simply be a thick client version of SharePoint.&nbsp; </p>
    <p>Sure, there are places where this integration doesn&rsquo;t mesh well (I keep thinking of a couple hundred MB sized document library being kept in sync with 8 people on a team&hellip; what a nightmare for [1] network traffic and [2] for conflict resolution!).&nbsp; But those are more technical issues and not possible implementations for it.&nbsp; Technical solutions are devised from implementations&hellip; so I&rsquo;ll leave that one for later.&nbsp; </p>
    <p>I&rsquo;ve only scratched the surface.&nbsp; I see many other areas of integration between the two applications.&nbsp; I&rsquo;m somewhat surprised to see virtually no one talking about this subject (aside from the initial buzz the move caused&hellip; me being a part of that).&nbsp; I was hoping to see more future being discussed at PDC with respect to Groove, but it appears that we&rsquo;ll have to wait a little longer.&nbsp; I surely don&rsquo;t see Microsoft selling Groove as&nbsp;a stand-alone application&hellip; not with how integrated so many of their other products are becoming in the new Office 12.&nbsp; This one should be fun to watch&hellip; I know I will being involved with the portals/server side of the Office System. </p>
    <p>Looks like my Vista Beta <a title="Microsoft Virtual PC 2004" href="http://www.microsoft.com/windows/virtualpc/default.mspx" target="_blank">Virtual PC</a> is almost finished installing&hellip;</p>
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