Uniting under Groove
Groove 2.5 ties shared spaces into the mainstreamFollow @infoworld
Groove founder Ray Ozzie and his teams have always pretended to build application software. But what they have actually delivered are the operating systems of the future — years ahead of schedule.
The XML business Web is only now achieving the architecture that Lotus Notes laid down 15 years ago: message-oriented exchange of semistructured documents. As today's operating systems catch up with that paradigm, Ozzie is tackling the next set of challenges in Groove: drop-dead simple, secure collaboration, presence management, coordination of user and device identities, and ad-hoc group formation.
To make an omelet, you have to break eggs, and what Groove broke was compatibility with the e-mail infrastructure that serves (poorly) as our medium for team communication and as our distributed storage system. Groove also broke compatibility with the Web. Documents and messages in Groove's shared spaces had what looked like URLs, but those URLs didn't mean anything outside of Groove; they couldn't be bookmarked, shared, nor posted to the Web. Finally, Groove planted deep roots in Win32/COM, all but foreclosing non-Windows platform options.
They were hard choices with serious consequences, but there was no other way to make the omelet. What the Groove Workspace has delivered since Version 1.0, and steadily refined through Version 2.5 released last week, is a seamless and comprehensive environment for collaboration. It defines what Microsoft and Apple will be lucky to achieve by 2006. When they get there, of course, they'll bring along everything Groove had to jettison in order to sprint to the finish line. Meanwhile, Groove's challenge is to reel in what was thrown overboard. The 2.5 release confronts that challenge.
For users of Version 2.5, the bridges that Groove has been building to Microsoft Outlook are fortified. In 2.1, you could capture an Outlook e-mail thread (with attachments) and send it to a Groove shared space, but it was only through a heavyweight operation that you could create a new shared space. In 2.5, you can inject the thread into an existing space, choose among multiple discussions in that space, and include attachments with messages or send them to a file repository in the space. It's a dramatic improvement.
Entirely new is the ability to send Outlook contacts to Groove and to synchronize Groove and Outlook calendars. From Outlook, you can select one or more calendar items and inject them into a calendar in an existing shared space. Going the other way, a Groove calendar or meeting can now publish items to Outlook.
As always, the devil is in the details. My default view in the Outlook calendar is customized with a check box I use to tick off completed appointments. Groove didn't know that, so my default view filtered out the items injected by Groove. Happily, 2.5 cures these hiccups.
The Groove Web Services (GWS) integration technology (see "Extending Groove,"