Lotus inventor finds his groove

SV News Service

In the 1990s his Lotus Notes software revolutionized business groupware software. Now Ray Ozzie is back with a new software platform that will let groups of computer users talk, work on documents and share video and audio data in real time without the need of a network server.

The ‘Groove’ peer-to-peer networking software is similar to the model used by Napster to let Internet users share music files. Unlike client-server applications like Lotus Notes, peer-to-peer computing allows users to share information directly with one another. Groove creates a secure environment for exchanging ideas, images and sound beyond what is possible using e-mail or the telephone.

Groove links selected groups of co-workers, customers or friends in real time. “It brings together people, information and the tools people use to manipulate that information. What Groove is essentially creating are private communications networks between people who need to get things done,” Ozzie explained

The software allows users to collaborate through voice, video and keyboard communications and work simultaneously on a single document or image. Other products currently on the market offer such capability, but not together in a single package.
A basic version of Groove was made available for free download on Groove Networks’ website. Ozzie’s firm intends to design and sell add-on tools ‘to suit clients’ individual business needs.

Groove runs on Windows and requires a computer with 64MB of memory, a 233 MHz Pentium processor and 56K modem. A version that runs on Linux is in development.

Ozzie said he got the idea for Groove when he observed his son playing the computer game Quake online with friends. “It hit me that if these kids can get together and molding this technology to what they want to do at the edge of the Internet, why are business people stuck using e-mail?”

Ozzie has received $ 60 million in venture capital financing, including backing by Lotus founder Mitch Kapor.
Groove could attract users because it easy to use and maintain and less expensive-relying on processing capability users already have on their desktops–rather than expensive central servers, said Rob Enderle of Giga Information Group, an IT consulting firm.

“The popularity of Internet music file-sharing programs offer testament to the potential audience for Groove,” said Charles King, a senior industry analyst with Zona Research in Redwood City. He added that some security concerns will cloud Groove. “You are asking people to leave their front doors open at one level. If Groove deals effectively with privacy concerns, it could be a very successful product.”

Even Bill Gates, Chief, Microsoft, offered an initial endorsement of Groove. “Ray Ozzie has a history of building breakthrough applications. With
Groove, he and his team have built a deep and innovative application that is a great example of where the Internet is going.”

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