October 24, 2000 8:45 AM PDT

Groove pushes sharing ideas on the Net

Groove Networks on Tuesday took the wraps off software for collaborating over the Internet.

The brainchild of Lotus Notes creator Ray Ozzie, the collaborative software takes a Napster-like approach to sharing files, ideas and data.

During three years of secret development, Ozzie and his team of about 100 programmers created the company's first product, also called Groove.

Ozzie founded Groove in October 1997, funding the company with help from Lotus founder Mitch Kapor. Privately held Groove, located in Beverly, Mass., also received funding from Accel Partners and Intel. To date, Groove has received more than $60 million in funding.

Groove brings together a number of disparate computing concepts that have been floating around the Internet for years, such as home and corporate video conferencing, the exchange of music, video and photo files, and instant messaging and chat, among other things.

But rather than making consumers and businesses use several different products for these activities, Groove has bundled the functions into a single product.

The premise behind the software is simple: Make it easy for people to share ideas and information so they can more quickly bring projects to fruition. Groove envisions its software being used in areas like inventory control, purchasing, distribution, auctions and customer service.

Groove will also sell the product to individuals and consumers. The company envisions families sharing gossip, photos, music and other information despite being separated by long distances.

The software creates a shared space on a computer for files that can be shared with other people using Groove over a corporate network or across the Internet. Napster takes a similar approach to sharing music files, which are stored on individuals' PCs but accessed through the company's software connecting through a central server.

Through Groove, consumers or businesses can access this data in a collaborative fashion while working on projects in real time, either by chat, video conferencing, instant messaging or other features, singly or simultaneously.

The software runs on all major versions of Windows, including Windows 2000 and Millennium Edition. But the memory requirements could be hard for some companies to swallow. Minimum requirements are 64MB, but 32MB must be dedicated to Groove.

A preview edition of the software is available for free download from the company's Web site.

While Groove is starting with Windows, the company can run the software on Linux and has plans to extend Groove to handheld devices. Groove is also looking closely at Apple Computer's Mac OS X and could in the future release a version of the software for that operating system. Mac OS X is in beta testing, with a release scheduled for early next year.

Groove also plans to support Microsoft's .Net strategy.

Groove is not without competitors, among them Lotus Notes.

Ozzie is best known for developing Lotus Notes, which IBM estimates is used by about 60 million people. While the software builds on some of the collaborative techniques used in Notes, its feature set goes much further.

Whether that is far enough to woo businesses away from Notes and collaborative tools that Microsoft will offer in the next release of Office is the challenge ahead for Groove.

 

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