Does Microsoft have a gameplan for Groove?

Does Microsoft have a gameplan for Groove?

Summary: At this week's summit for 1,800 of its Most Valuable Professionals (MVPs), questions about Microsoft's gameplan for Groove took center stage when attendees had a chance to ask questions of Chief Software Architect Ozzie and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

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It's been ages since Microsoft has said much of anything about Groove, one of its most celebrated acquisitions.

By buying the floundering Groove Networks in 2005, Microsoft got its current Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie (as well as Ozzie's brother Jack and other Groove folks), as well as Groove's collaboration wares. But what has Microsoft done with Groove in the interim -- other than continue to try to explain why Groove and SharePoint don't really overlap?

At this week's summit for 1,800 of its Most Valuable Professionals (MVPs), questions about Microsoft's gameplan for Groove took center stage when attendees had a chance to ask questions of Chief Software Architect Ozzie and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

Groove is designed to allow offline users or those outside a security firewall to collaborate with SharePoint users collaborating inside shared workspaces. Currently, Microsoft sells Groove as part of the Ultimate and Enterprise editions of Office 2007, as well as a standalone product and annual subscription service (called Office Live Groove 2007). Groove is said to be successful with government customers, but I have to admit I seldom run across Groove customers in my travels.

MVPs expressed dissatisfaction this week with the coordination (or lack thereof) between the SharePoint and Groove development teams at Microsoft. One MVP's question about Groove's future resulted in Ballmer wondering aloud whether Microsoft might be helped by rebranding and repositioning Groove as "SharePoint Offline."

According to a transcript of Ballmer's remarks on April 17 at the MVP summit, he asked participants about how Microsoft should ease the confusion between SharePoint and Groove. Ballmer asked the MVPs:

"SharePoint offline, I'll just make a name up. That shows I'm not going to get any marketing awards, but would you like the design center for Groove to evolve to be much more SharePoint offline, or would you be happy to continue to see the two proceed with related, but independent, design points?"

Another unnamed MVP suggested to Ballmer that Microsoft needs to increase its own use of Groove inside the company and refrain from turning Groove into a subset of SharePoint. From the MVP's remarks, as quoted in the Ballmer transcript:

"Please don't dilute Groove as a platform in its own right. It has a value not necessarily dependent on SharePoint or anything else.

"Very often Groove is a much easier entry point into an organization. It's also a phenomenal platform on which to build real-world applications, and I'm talking of distributed ERP, point of sales systems, and a lot of things that benefit from the security, reliability, and the ease of use of Groove."

During Ozzie's Q&A with MVPs, another summit participant asked about Microsoft's future plans for Groove. From the Ozzie transcript:

"Is Groove the future UI (user interface) for SharePoint, because that would be just -- when you talk about your software as a service and talk about exposing services in new ways and in new UIs, there's a lot of overlap there? It seems like Groove really ought to be the way to leverage SharePoint on the desktop."

Ozzie's answer was (in typical Ozzie fashion), cryptic:

"You asked if Groove is the future UI of SharePoint. I might ask the same thing, is SharePoint the future UI of Groove.... They (Groove and SharePoint) are very, very complementary, and you will see in 14 and beyond increasing association with the things that you can do in SharePoint, and the things that you can do with Groove and the client, increasing levels of connections, both specific functions of the UI that are designed to work seamlessly with one another, increasingly the semantics underneath being brought together and so on. So, it's a good observation, and, yes, that is the strategy."

Update: SharePoint MVP John Milan had a good post that went further in deciphering the Ozzie-speak on what might happen with Groove and SharePoint, synergy-wise. 

Microsoft has been putting serious marketing muscle behind SharePoint and has been seeing the payoff in terms of sales. I really don't have a clue -- and wonder whether the Softies themselves do -- about Redmond could and should do with Groove. Anyone out there see a place Groove could add more value to Microsoft's Software + Services vision?

Topics: Collaboration, Enterprise Software, Microsoft, Software

About

Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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20 comments
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  • Groove is cool but it lacks one important thing

    Groove is about synchronization of files on the client. They need to take it a bit further (maybe via "Mesh?") and synrhonize files to the client nodes (PC's, Servers, Phones) and to the Web. That way the users can have his/her files wherever he/she needs them and can use better tools (e.g. Office) when they're available or, when those tools aren't available, use simpler Web-based tools. To me that's the goal...best of both worlds where I only have to use pure Web-based apps when I have to but my files are available anywhere that I need them.
    marksashton
    • groove is MUCH more than file share

      it has a rich set of tools for any business task from shared calendars to custom forms for remote data capture - more imp it is a platform which you can use to enable your own apps to share data in real time - securely and reliably - in fact the US army deems groove to be the only tool that works under battlefield conditions, where reliable connectivity itself is an issue - like in India and many parts of the world
      ashok hingorani
  • Can't anyone give us a straight answer, say a yes or no

    Or does Microsoft not market or use Groove because it was not invented by Microsoft and could cannibalize sales of SharePoint?

    I hope this is not another "extend, embrace and extinguish" ploy by Microsoft but it is starting to smell like it.

    RIP Groove?
    ThePrairiePrankster
    • Agreed...

      The answers that Ballmer and Ozzie gave were about as obscure and non-committal as I've ever seen.

      The one participant asked Ozzie if Groove was a UI and then Ozzie responds with a hypothetical oppostie (well, maybe Sharepoint will be the UI for Groove) really makes me feel that Microsoft hasn't a clue what they are doing here and most likely will kill Groove or destory it's value by trying to integrate 10,000 Sharepoint features into it until it's bloated and useless.
      lawryll@...
    • RIP Groove - NO WAY

      try it is the best i can say - one taste and you will be hooked into the best way for individuals and teams to work together - no servers no IT admin - just install, create wokspaces for specific tasks, invite people with the need to know and you are collaborating in a way nothing else will let you.
      ashok hingorani
  • RE: Does Microsoft have a gameplan for Groove?

    Apparently not.
    ThePrairiePrankster
  • Groove's gameplan should be BizTalk's gameplan

    Groove is an awesome all-in-one package that ought to be broken out into more reusable components similar to the modularization that is happening to BizTalk (Windows Workflow, Silver, Oslo, etc.), IIS 7's Apache-style modularization, etc. Once this happens, "Groove Classic" and SharePoint become complementary apps that are layered on top of the same plumbing.

    One of the down-sides to this is that the licensing and revenue models change significantly. Groove is part of the Office cash cow, and BizTalk is part of the Server cash cow. Spinning off free frameworks like Workflow and WCF definitely cut into the sales potential of BizTalk, but on the other hand they greatly increase the relevance to a larger population, with reasonable up-sell potential.
    odenni
  • Microsoft is clueless about collaboration.

    Ray Ozzie has forgotten more about collaboration than most people ever learn. And there's the key word: [i]forgotten.[/i]

    One would think that MS would have gotten a clue about collaboration when they hired him, but apparently not. they just got an endless source of doubletalk and gobbledygook.

    If you want to do collaboration right, without all the guesswork about what components need to be available on what machines, when, what mucilage code is needed, and whether any of what you've invested in is going to be around tomorrow, then get your hands on Lotus Notes 8.
    dave.leigh@...
    • but now they have Ray Ozzie

      I just think Ray is being the gentleman and letting MS discover the sheer power and joy of groove rather than using his position to puch his own baby :-)
      ashok hingorani
  • Can you spell annihilation?

    Balmer's fudged line on this is contradicted by the way Microsoft has already stripped functionality out of Groove (2K7) and moved a small part of it to Live Workspace. Which part? Only the part that fits with Microsoft's intended licensing model for software as a service.

    When is the utterly toothless DoJ going to get a grip of Microsoft and stop them acquiring great products, just so that they can destroy them?
    David Gale
    • wait for it to rise like the phoenix

      agree some good stuff was taken out - but only to be put back in a more effective way, soon we hope
      however groove / Ray always said they were platform builders not tool makers, which is why they created the partner community to add value - we use groove for it's incredibly reliable sync engine to power our own real world distributed apps like Point of Sales and ERP - call me at apwizard@usa.net for more dialogue on this if you like
      ashok hingorani
  • We Dumped Groove

    Groove could have been so much. A group of consultants working on a project from three different locations? Groove made this simple...Groove 3.1 that is. Groove 2007 had every piece of usefulness removed, and it is a hollow shell of its former version. I can only speculate that they killed it because it competed with SharePoint, but SharePoint doesn't allow easy collaboration across small groups like Groove. So now someone else will fill that need, for example, Google Apps. Once again, they just don't get it. And Mr Ozzie should not be let off so easily, as he could have championed Groove.
    Morkin
    • we didn't :-)

      sure it has been a tough ride - but groove actually gets better in many ways that are important - the sync engine and compatibility with other tools

      doubt anyone will catch up on groove after so many years of dev - google apps are neat but web based and incomplete compared to the full excel for example
      but the real power of groove lies in enabling other apps - try it
      if Ray is not pushing groove it is simply because there is also much else of value at MS for him to wrap his mind around and not be selfish and plug his own baby. Groove will survive purely on merit.
      ashok hingorani
  • RE: Does Microsoft have a gameplan for Groove?

    Hi this is ashok hingorani, the MVP from India who asked SteveB the question about groove's future - was trying to keep it short to save time for others :-)

    I plan to follow up with Steve and Ray because i have some live scenarious where applications built on Groove beat the pants off anything thet SAP, PWC and others have out there (in terms of efficiency and cost and sheer value to the customer)

    anyone interested can call me at apwizard@usa.net

    to answer those who dumped groove - come back -too big a value proposition here - you need to explore more - specially real world apps and not just tools, on which we all did lose a bit of time and money - but was still worth it for the learning experience.
    ashok hingorani
  • they will once they understand it flly

    agree with you - groove is awesome and most do not understand the full power and functionality beyond the obvious file share etc.

    but it is happening as we build real world distributed solutions based on the groove sync engine and open architecture / web services etc.
    ashok hingorani
    • that should read FULLY - sorry for the typo

      any way to edit our own posts ?
      ashok hingorani
  • RE: Does Microsoft have a gameplan for Groove?

    I'm excited to see the level of interest in the future of Groove. Certainly, the conversataions at the MVP Summit were very open, candid and thought provoking. Matt and I got together to review our notes and respond online here: http://blogs.technet.com/groove . I hope you'll take a look, and keep the conversation going.
    --abbott
    groove advisor
  • A future based on several complementary approaches

    This Summit was a real opportunity for Groove MVPs and Groove community to demonstrate their enthusiasm and faith in this wonderful product : Groove.... and explain that Groove has a future based on several complementary approaches :
    - As the Offline client for SharePoint
    - As a standalone application providing secured cross-organization P2P collaboration
    - As a sandalone platform to create secured distributed applications

    Fabrice BARBIN
    Groove MVP - Groove MCTS
    http://fbarbin.spaces.live.com
    fbarbin
  • RE: Does Microsoft have a gameplan for Groove?

    Groove is definitely a very wonderful product. But it lacks few features. I can not access my account from else where. Mainly I can not use groove for Mac and linux. In this growing world of linux, platform independency is something which I think Microsoft should look into. Meanwhile I was searching for a groove alternative I found this interesting software called Collaber developed by a team from India.It works on Linux, Mac and Windows. I liked this a lot.
    http://www.collaber.com
    evan432
  • RE: Does Microsoft have a gameplan for Groove?

    Sorry, by mistake I posted my article twice. Please ignore it :)
    evan432