Microsofts acquisition of Groove Networks isnt a case of “why?” as much as “why now?” or even “why so long?”
Groove founder Ray Ozzie, now Microsofts chief technology officer, is a genius with a knack for creating products that everyone realizes are great, but that are also too revolutionary to be widely adopted.
Lotus Notes, his best-known invention, certainly qualifies in that category. Groove is easier for customers to implement and does more useful things, but is still “out there” just a bit.
Ozzie has received much more technological acclaim than he has achieved commercial success. Microsoft is about to bring Ozzies inventive peer-to-peer technology to a much wider audience as part of applications they already use.
I wonder for how long the exit strategy at Groove has been, “And then Bill arrives with the money”? Was it since the very beginning, in 1997, when Ozzie and members of the Notes development team left Lotus/IBM to form Groove? Or was it since 2001, when the first Microsoft investment was made? Or maybe 2003, when more Microsoft Money arrived?
And is it the purchase part of Microsofts information worker initiative, or a response to dwindling cash at Groove? Had Groove accomplished as much as it possibly could as a stand-alone company? Probably all of the above.
Whatever else may be true, Groove had built a nice platform, albeit one that would never sell in large quantities without the kind of help only Microsoft could provide. The acquisition makes tremendous sense for both companies, but especially for customers, who can expect to see Grooves peer-to-peer functionality become part of Microsoft Office and show up, perhaps, in other places as well.
My experience with Groove has been that many people who would benefit from the technology are turned off by having to learn a new application. Thanks to this deal, they will no longer have to. But when that will happen—with the integration of Groove into Microsoft products—has not been announced.
The other thing of note, and Bill Gates made comments to this effect, is that Ray Ozzie has belonged at Microsoft for a long time. As one of three CTOs (I guess Microsoft has enough “T” to require three “C”s) at Microsoft, Ozzies imaginative solutions to complex problems could find their way into a much broader range of information-worker tools.
Microsofts purchase of Groove is a good thing all around. But now that Im thinking about it, why did it take Microsoft so long to make the deal?