Deeper implications of the Microsoft/Groove merger

by Andy Oram

The trade press has explored the acquisition of Ray Ozzie's
Groove Networks
by Microsoft along the lines of "What functionality can now appear in
Office?" A whole other story remains to be told: what made the whole
integration of Groove with Microsoft work in the first place.



How did the small Groove team manage to meld a complex and
sophisticated product in with Office? What made them attract first
Microsoft collaboration, then Microsoft investment, and finally
outright purchase?



Groove started out supporting Microsoft products, like so many new
companies, simply because of their market dominance (so far as I could
tell--I didn't confirm this impression with the Ozzies or anyone
else). They started in pre-.NET days.



But they quickly found, as .NET ramped up, that they could develop
components very quickly and meld them with Office pretty
seamlessly. This claim I actually did hear from Groove developers.



Whether or not you find Groove's work-anywhere-with-anyone approach to
collaboration appealing (I think it has intriguing potential, and made
sure it was covered extensively in the book

Peer-to-Peer
),
the tight integration Groove achieved shows what other companies can
do with Microsoft. As my article

Applications, User Interfaces, and Servers in the Soup
describes,
the flexibility of .NET allows a whole new approach to application
development. It makes Microsoft more flexible, and in its own unique
way, open. Yes, .NET is just one component technology out of many--but
its particular value to Microsoft is demonstrated by this merger with
Groove.



The
Mono
team has discovered the pleasures of .NET. I do not necessarily say
that Mono's approach is the best one or that others should use it, but
I think open source advocates have something to learn from what
.NET has achieved.