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11/22/2002
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Getting Out Of Isolated-Workplace Ruts

Product updates from Microsoft and Groove will make it possible for collaborative work sites built with Microsoft's Sharepoint Team Services to be extended outside firewalls.

More than a year after Microsoft pumped $51 million into collaboration-software vendor Groove Networks Inc., the two companies are preparing to unleash the first integration of their technologies. Product updates coming from both companies will make it possible for collaborative work sites built with Microsoft's Sharepoint Team Services to be extended outside firewalls via the Groove client.

Microsoft on Monday is releasing a new version of its Solution for Intranets, a package of documentation and services that lets companies more easily build collaborative intranets using Sharepoint Team Services, Sharepoint Portal Server, Office XP, SQL server, Windows 2000, and Windows Media technologies. Later this year, Groove will release an updated version of its peer-to-peer collaboration software, which lets project teams work on collaborative projects online or off, with changes automatically synchronized each time a team member logs on.

That release will include tools for integrating with the Microsoft intranet software, thus allowing project team members to use Groove to give customers, suppliers, and partners access to Sharepoint work sites that until now have been limited to access from within the firewall.

Dana Gardner, an analyst with Aberdeen Group, says there's no other product on the market that can combine a powerful centralized collaboration tool such as Sharepoint with the decentralized, offline capabilities of Groove. "There's nothing this comprehensive for the user and easy for an IT department," Gardner says. "You get the best of an intranet combined with the best of an extranet."

Noam Topaz, senior product manager for intranets and portals at Microsoft, says users of Sharepoint Team Services have been asking for the ability to work offline and across organizational boundaries, two features that are Groove strengths. The new version of Groove will be configured to let external users view a Sharepoint site within the Groove interface while preserving the Sharepoint look and feel, says Matt Howard, VP of business development at Groove.

Companies wanting to take advantage of the integration will need to purchase the professional edition of Groove 2.5, which will sell for $149 per seat. They'll also need to run Sharepoint Portal Server, which is priced at $3,499 plus $72 per seat, and Office XP Professional, which includes Sharepoint Team Services and is priced at $599 per desktop. The Microsoft prices are a la carte, with discounts for bundled packages.

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