Microsoft/Groove marriage sparks Longhorn questions

Observers unsure where Groove's peer-to-peer software will fit with Longhorn, Office 12

In acquiring Groove Networks, Microsoft's collaboration strategy will gain a clear boost, but the move raises questions about how swiftly and effectively the two companies can integrate Groove's technology into Longhorn and the next version of Office.

The deal calls for Microsoft to add Groove's flagship product to Microsoft's Office System lineup. Ray Ozzie, Groove's founder and the developer of Lotus Notes, will become one of three CTOs at Microsoft reporting directly to Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates. 

"We will bring together the peer-to-peer and authentication capabilities Groove has built into their application with the equivalent things we have been incubating at Microsoft to strengthen the platform. Clearly, a big thing with Longhorn is its peer-to-peer capabilities, and Groove will help us pull that together," Gates said.

But how much of Groove's technology Microsoft can effectively weave into its critical Longhorn and Office offerings, both due in late 2006, is very much an open question for some industry observers last week.

"With two big releases coming next year [Longhorn and Office 12], and with hundreds of developers well into their development phases on both of them, it is going to be hard to take a step back and stitch new technology and strategies in and around them," said Nate Root,  a vice president at Forrester Research.

By combining Groove with its existing collaboration products, including Office, SharePoint server products, and Live Meeting Server 2005, Microsoft officials believe they have achieved a collaboration "trifecta."

"This combination of real-time, server-based P2P communications with Groove's Virtual Office should allow us to extend our lead in collaboration," said Jeff Raikes, group vice president in charge of Microsoft's Information Worker Business unit.