By Steve Gillmor  |  Posted 2004-03-16 Print this article Print

über operating system"> With Longhorn increasing its time to market by years instead of months, Groove Version 3 is very timely. By allowing scoped, secure sharing of data off of the file system, not just between collaborators but also between an individuals multiple machines, youre establishing a kind of über operating system. People buy Groove because theyve got a business problem theyre trying to solve that involves people that need to work together. I dont know how Longhorn is going to be sold or marketed, but with Groove we ask, "Do you know what youre trying to do that involves other people?" Heres the business value of Groove—install it, and you can use it to very quickly help put together a solution to solve your problem. I think of Groove more in the business-value dimension than in the operating system dimension.
The layer that you put on top of the operating system is where the customers really face the technology. Youre empowering teams to collaborate not only across enterprise boundaries but between devices of the individuals in those virtual groups. Thats really the model of what a next-generation operating system needs to accomplish.
Let there be no doubt that Groove is extremely rich client-side middleware. Furthermore, we believe that the core tenets, the core success criteria of any system thats supposed to bring people together to do something, have to operate on the infrastructure that they own. My IT organization cannot dictate what directory or standards another organization deploys. If I, as an individual within a line of business, have to work with five other companies, I cannot get a uniform infrastructure between those people. I cant control what desktop operating system they are using—they might use Windows 98, XP or Longhorn. I cant dictate what directory or what version of Microsoft Office theyre using. Anything that is going to be effective in terms of collaboration must be middleware. One of Grooves core characteristics is that its adaptive to the environment that it is installed into, and if you talk to Groove users, [theyll tell you that] thats what makes it very valuable. All they need to know is the person that they need to work with. Thats it. Everything else just kind of works, and "just works"—no matter what your collaborators happen to be using—is fundamental to its success. I understand the collaboration aspect, but the biggest problem we have these days as users is orchestrating our technology environment. Groove will help that tremendously. How is it going to bridge the gap between the Tablet Im recording this conversation on and the phone Im talking to you on? How are we going to be able to move Groove data to the phone and back? All Im prepared to talk about right now is how Groove can move information between PC-class devices. Weve got a lot of really interesting ideas and concepts and prototypes that are essentially extensions of what weve done in Web services and our [Simple Object Access Protocol] relay. To me, your Alerts mechanism represents the dawn of a real-time architecture. Absolutely. I want to bring you back to a blog post that you made where you were expressing your frustration with the thousands of feeds and how far behind you are. Notification architectures like RSS are addictive because suddenly you see all sorts of things happening and changing and you want to aggregate them. Most people in RSS Land are just beginning. Theyre not as far on the curve as you are. Theyve only got a small number of feeds. But the fundamental problem that youve got is the problem that everybodys got: If youre a sophisticated information worker, youve got too much stuff going on. How can you prioritize and rank it in a way that makes you able to cope with life? Thats why I keep coming back [to this idea]: The fundamental nature of work is changing, and weve got a lot of stuff and people to deal with online. What Groove has done in its notification and alert architecture is an extremely sophisticated way of enabling swarming around joined things that were working on. Once you start using Groove in this dimension, you cant even think about how you ever even did it in e-mail. Its hard to fathom that you would have this level of interaction—I did this, you did this, you did that—with the dynamics in e-mail. The level of interaction that Im having with my development team around refining certain features—its staggering in terms of the number of messages and thoughts that are going back and forth, back and forth over the course of a day. And were doing this while were doing other stuff. Were multitasking. RSS is in its infancy. Aggregators are in their infancy, and their job for the most part is aggregating conversations, personal and traditional publishing, whether its Yahoo News or the New York Times or something like that. Combine that with all the interactions that you do with individuals who you work with, and thats the future. Thats what weve got to contend with. Anybody who wants to understand where the future of how you can cope with lots and lots of stuff going on… if you want to see where thats going, get into Groove. Thats what weve been doing for the last couple of years, looking at how our users are dealing with lots of information going on in lots of shared spaces and packaging that information in a highly aggregated form with prioritized notifications and so on. Last year was the year of WiFi, the transition to laptops. Were all walking around with laptops now. Weve all got second machines. Were working from home. Were working from the client site. The fundamental nature of work for information workers has changed, and what most people need right now is essentially a virtual office and a solution to these synchronization and secure information-sharing needs. Groove is that, dead-on, in terms of the changing nature of work. Check out eWEEK.coms Messaging Center at for more on RSS, IM, and other collaboration technologies.
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Steve Gillmor is editor of's Messaging & Collaboration Center. As a principal reviewer at Byte magazine, Gillmor covered areas including Visual Basic, NT open systems, Lotus Notes and other collaborative software systems. After stints as a contributing editor at InformationWeek Labs, editor in chief at Enterprise Development Magazine, editor in chief and editorial director at XML and Java Pro Magazines, he joined InfoWorld as test center director and columnist.

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