Former Notes guru gets back in the Groove

At a press conference Tuesday, Ozzie, who founded Groove Networks three years ago, showed off the base technology that allows closely knit groups of individuals to collaborate on a broad range of activities within secure, shared virtual spaces in real time, or asynchronously.

Users interact via the Groove 'transceiver,' a browser-like client interface that supports voice, text chat, instant messaging, and threaded discussion; it also includes tools for file sharing, drawing, and other shared activities, according to company officials. Facilitating the company's business model, third-party applications and components can be added, and Groove Networks itself will offer both basic and extended versions of the software.

The Groove platform is based on Microsoft's Component Object Model (COM), and makes heavy use of XML. Although initially available for Windows only, the Groove client will also be available on Linux and most likely the MacOS, as well as a broad array of mobile and wireless platforms, according to company officials.

For wireless devices, Groove is looking at adding support for WAP (wireless application protocol).

In peer-to-peer mode, the shared spaces created by groups are maintained in local XML Object Stores on each user's system. The platform's XML Object Routing service handles synchronisation; routing of encrypted data; firewall navigation; and "awareness" of other users, devices, and network topology, according to company officials.

Ozzie noted that the company expects to see demand mushrooming from the user community, and that the peer-to-peer software has the potential to circumvent and possibly subvert organisations' policies. "We need to be there in a way that respects ITs' needs, but I can't have the grass-roots growth not happen," he said.

The Groove platform uses agents, or 'bots,' to create bidirectional connections, subject to access control, with server-based data, according to company officials.

Through the Groove Development Kit (GDK), developers and systems integrators, and Web developers can integrate Groove with their existing business systems, or create from the ground up peer-to-peer Web solutions by taking advantage of Groove's reusable components.

The Preview Edition of Groove can be downloaded for free at www.groove.net.

Groove, as described by company officials Tuesday, is a highly modular framework that works in conjunction with industry-standard programming languages that are COM-compliant. Peer computing applications can be put together using simple XML and scripting languages, including Javascript, they said.

Some developers said they were impressed with what they saw during Tuesday's demonstration.

"Groove should create some interesting new opportunities for the developer community and enable the rapid development of effective applications for both business and consumers," said David Mendels, Macromedia's senior vice president of business development and corporate marketing.

Although Groove Networks developers have written some Java components using Microsoft Visual J++, which supports COM, the platform does not currently support Java. "There are so many variants of Java, and we didn't want to get caught up in that. We wanted to go after the biggest installed base right out of the box," said Eric Patey, vice president of development in the company's tools and application components group.

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