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Trying to Find a Collaboration Groove

Microsoft's $120 million acquisition of Groove Networks adds to Microsoft's growing stack of collaboration technologies. Integrating the technologies into a cohesive set of products with a coherent storyline that convinces customers to pay to use them will be the next challenge.

Microsoft has yet to see a runaway success in this category, other than the Outlook-attachment method the company seems desperate to move users away from, so a complete shake up is entirely possible.

Here's the current stack of Microsoft collaboration technologies, and where Groove's Virtual Office currently fits in:

SharePoint Portal Server Microsoft SharePoint Portal Server
Microsoft's high-end collaboration solution retails for $5,619 on top of your server OS price. It is a server- centric, administrator-intensive approach to collaboration with extensive focus on internal search capabilities. Microsoft's offerings already confuse the market somewhat because this product's name is so similar to …

Windows SharePoint Services
This is an add-on available at no additional charge with Windows Server 2003. Windows SharePoint Services is still server-based, like the portal by the same name, but takes a more decentralized approach. Administrators enable the capability and authenticated users can set up and maintain their own collaboration workspaces.

Groove Virtual OfficeGroove Virtual Office
Virtual Office differs from the Microsoft SharePoint technologies in its peer-to-peer, as opposed to server-centric, orientation. Developed with the special needs of road warriors in mind, Groove's technologies facilitate online and offline work with a lot of thought to synchronization. It is Microsoft Office-centric, but duplicates many Microsoft capabilities.

Microsoft Office SuiteMicrosoft Office Suite
Office has two identities. There's the way most people currently use it for collaboration—sending Word and Excel documents as Outlook attachments. And there's the way Microsoft positions it for collaboration—a mix of Office suite hooks into servers like SharePoint Portal Server. The Outlook-attachment model is the entrenched collaboration behavior that Microsoft is trying to combat in order to raise revenues, streamline work processes and reduce security exposure. For evidence of Microsoft's campaign against the old way of collaborating, look no further than the Office ads featuring the people with dinosaur heads.

IstanbulIstanbul
Microsoft's Istanbul client for Live Communications Server 2005 is one of Microsoft's most visible attempts to move its collaboration infrastructure forward. The technology enables peer-to-peer communication and collaboration with server oversight. It also drags lots of hooks to tie in the rest of the Microsoft infrastructure.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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