Charles Engelke's Blog

June 6, 2006

Groove is Dead

Filed under: Notes — Charles Engelke @ 6:34 pm

Well, not quite yet, but it’s definitely terminal. When Microsoft bought the company, this seemed a likely outcome, and today they confirmed it by announcing Microsoft Office Groove 2007 BETA. From the FAQs, it’s clear that there will be a product with Groove in its name, but the Groove we’ve known will cease to exist.

Groove’s glory was its lack of infrastructure. For $50 you bought Groove and installed it on your PC. If someone you knew did the same, you could create and share a Groove space. No servers to manage, so services to subscribe to. Sure, there were servers “out in the cloud” on the Internet, but they were managed by Groove, not you, and your purchase entitled you to use them. And public key cryptography prevented any disclosure of your data to those servers, even as they relayed it to other, authorized, users. And users with different versions of Groove could still usually share workspaces with each other, or at least most of the contents of the workspaces.

It was beautiful. But Microsoft doesn’t work that way. So Groove will no longer work that way.

Buy Groove once and use it for good, paying for upgrades if you wanted them, or skipping them if you preferred? No more. Now you will “subscribe” to Groove, instead of buy it. After all, Microsoft says that, “In talking with customers, we found that the flexibility to purchase Groove on a subscription basis held strong appeal with small businesses and workgroups, primarily due to the lower up front cost and the ability to get software updates made available during the term of the subscription.” Sure, we all hated that one-time $50 cost! (To be fair, Groove raised the price repeatedly with each new version, but it never got to be high enough to impede getting external business partners to buy it and give it a try.)

Install the client and go? No infrastructure, just use those Groove servers out in the cloud? No, no, no. You’ll have to buy Office Groove Server 2007 or Office Groove Enterprise Services. And, though the FAQs don’t mention it, that software will have to run on a Windows server, and I’m sure you’ll need a separate CAL for each user. Oh, and you’ll either have to put them directly out on the Internet (which I don’t like to do with Windows servers) or else make sure everyone you connect with has a VPN connection to your Intranet.

Well, maybe I’ll just stay with my current version of Groove. Not if anyone you plan to share workspaces with moves to the new Groove. “Anyone you invite to a workspace created with Office Groove 2007 must upgrade in order to accept the invitation.” Although, if you create the workspace with an older version, you can invite people with the new versions to it. For now.

Despite all that, do you want to give it a try? “The most important thing to know about upgrading to Groove 2007 is that this is a one way trip.” So don’t expect to just try. Not even on a test PC. You have to upgrade not only your Groove software, but also your Groove license, after which every other PC you use Groove on has to also be updated. One way.

This is a real shame. Groove was a great product that did pretty much one thing (securely sharing files with anyone, anywhere), and did it superbly. But that’s not sexy, and it never sold well. Groove also had a lot of other capabilities, but I never saw any of them get used anywhere near as much as the file tool. I don’t think that the new Groove will have any real value. If you’re going to have everybody you collaborate with work on a single Microsoft server, you already have (more complicated) ways to share data.

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