Groove and Microsoft Take Office Out of the Office

By Troy Dreier

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Groove Networks is getting its groove on with Microsoft's SharePoint in a pairing that promises benefits to mobile intranet users.

Microsoft's SharePoint Services is a set of tools bundled with the upcoming Office 2003 that let users easily create centralized document repositories for online collaboration. While the idea isn't new, Microsoft has greatly simplified the process. With SharePoint, any team can have an impromptu online space to store and exchange documents in minutes.

Groove Networks is the creator of Groove Workspace, an online tool that lets workers create virtual meeting spaces. Groove Workspace gives people a place to work on collaborative documents, host meetings, and keep track of projects.

With the latest version of Groove Workspace, SharePoint users can download an add-on package from Groove called Groove Mobile Workspace for SharePoint, that allows the two products to work together.

The combination gives both tools valuable new functions. Groove Workspace gains useful document management features. And SharePoint is a within-the-firewall product, so by working with Groove it gains the ability to securely serve documents to mobile workers.

Groove can work securely through firewalls because it only exchanges encryption keys with trusted Groove Workspace users. It can access locally all the documents stored on a SharePoint site, then pass them securely to remote workers.

Microsoft is an investor in Groove Networks, and the two companies have collaborated on various projects since Microsoft's initial investment in Groove in October, 2001. In addition to SharePoint and Office, Groove has been involved with projects for Microsoft's Tablet PC and Visual Studio .NET.

The Groove/SharePoint combination is a smart one for anyone who regularly meets with outside clients and worries about having the latest versions of documents on hand. Don't know if the sales figures have been updated? Don't worry -- the current version is always available.

That collaboration is only half the news, though. Groove Networks and Microsoft have already announced the next level of the Groove/SharePoint collaboration, due out later this year. For this, users will need to have the next iteration of Office, Windows Server 2003, and the upcoming major release of Groove Workspace. The collaboration will offer two useful new features: a document librarian and an integration with InfoPath, Microsoft's new desktop XML form creation tool.

InfoPath will let users build robust forms that link to databases. Groove, in turn, will let users carry these form libraries in their Groove Workspaces, fill in the forms on the go (for example, when meeting with clients), then have the answers automatically synchronized with a central database when the user returns to his or her office.