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Groove Platform

  While I will preface this post with the comment that I
believe Groove to be a cool idea in concept, I think that
their product strategy could be off-kilter.
  I read an article recently in eWeek (I think) in which Ozzie
mentioned no fewer than 5 server products on the horizon:

  1. Relay Server
  2. Enterprise Integration Server
  3. Enterprise Management Server
  4. Audit Server
  5. Web Services Server (Access Point)

  What?!?  While admittedly I don't fully grok the
responsibilities of each, my gut reaction is that their
product strategy is too complicated, and that it will be
hard for the sales force to explain the cadre of servers
to potential customers.
  Also, I agree with others who criticize Groove's pricing
strategy.  I'd love to investigate the possibility of
developing on this platform, but at $99 per client, it
doesn't scale in the way that say, a browser does.
  Lastly, this "technology" smells like something that could
become, like web servers and email servers, a commodity
good.  Thus, unless they can prove the ability to add
serious value, I'm skeptical that their current model is
sound.
  To summarize, I think that Groove has nice technology,
but I question their strategy.  Then again, Ozzie is a
veteran and I am a punk who's been in the business
for three years.  So, flame away! 

Thomas R. Dial
Monday, September 30, 2002

"but at $99 per client, it doesn't scale in the way that say, a browser does."

That is great for you - but who makes money on browsers these days? Everyone wants to be the 'next Netscape', but not if it means ending up the 'current Netscape'.

Robin Debreuil
Monday, September 30, 2002

Most business users who don't need to create new workplace forms, will only need the standard Groove client, that costs $49.

Even at the cost of the $99 Professional client, my personal use of the Groove client delivers a pretty compelling experience.

When was the last time you felt that a free browser environment delivered a "compelling experience" ?

Ray Schraff
Monday, September 30, 2002

"When was the last time you felt that a free browser environment delivered a 'compelling experience' ? "

Huh?  How about every day? 

Darren
Monday, September 30, 2002

The item of value here is the service/content, and not the
thing that lets you access it.  I mean, let's say for a moment
that I have a 62" Sony flat screen TV, but all I can get on
it is the 700 Club.  I'm much happier with my 27" Toshiba
if I can watch the Simpsons, or Seinfeld.  Hence, I can
go to three different stores and all the similar TV's are
priced within a few bucks of each other, and nobody 
reaps huge rewards off them-- all while people plan their
daily schedules around the shows they love.

With Groove, the item of value is "collaboration services",
not the client.  If you're a platform developer, your strategy is to make it super easy to write applications.  Then,
programmers validate your platform by writing for it.  After
there's a bunch of apps out there, other companies don't
have a chance in hell at creating infrastructure, even if it is
better.  I mean, you'll have the managing partner at some law firm talking to his IT guy, and he'll say, "FooBar? Who
the hell are they?  I don't want it unless it runs on Groove!"

If you want another strained analogy, the ugly world of
drugs provides an example: you give a guy his first hit, and
then BAM!, he's dependent on it.  If you charge him too
much, he might say, "well, maybe I don't want drugs after
all."  You could even be the most efficient dealer with the
best stuff, but the guy still goes to someone else because
he gets the first hit free there.

People will reply to me: Hey, giving away the browser
never helped Netscape!  Well, this didn't work for Netscape
because they never had control of the content.  They got a
bunch of people hooked alright, but the drugs were
growing on trees right outside everybody's house.

Thomas R. Dial
Monday, September 30, 2002

If the Notes client were given away and Lotus charged for the DB and development environment, it might still be with us today. Instead, Notes and Groove seem practically irrelevant.

pb
Monday, September 30, 2002

In many ways, Microsoft SharePoint exemplifies what a
software platform should try to be.  They're providing
people with tools, code samples, and documentation for
creating great software, and they're providing most
(or all) of this FOR FREE.

Thomas R. Dial
Monday, September 30, 2002

> If the Notes client were given away and Lotus
> charged for the DB and development environment,
> it might still be with us today. Instead, Notes and
> Groove seem practically irrelevant.

Don't be silly.

Ben Poole
Tuesday, October 01, 2002

Please elaborate.

pb
Tuesday, October 01, 2002

Thomas,
  Which Sharepoint are you referring to?  Remember there's Team Services (lightweight, but cheap) and Portal Server (a v1 collection of tools that could grow up into something pretty useful.)

And neither is free - Server is relatively cheap to get into, but without an enterprise license it adds up pretty quick (at almost the rate of Groove Pro) and Team Services comes bundled free with Office XP (remember the bundling discussions?)

SPS Guy
Tuesday, October 01, 2002

Joel did Groove a favor by prodding Ray to release the two articles.  But that doesn't mean I believe Joel's analysis.  He runs a different company than Groove.  Groove has investment that Fog Creek doesn't.

I thought that Ray was full of bullshit until he wrote those articles, then I realized he was intelligent.  That makes it much easier for me to to be locked into the software.  I still want to smack him everytime he writes about "empowerment" though.  Only users and employees can use that word, not salesmen.

To the orig poster:  I use the free version for personal use, and I've had no complaints.  (For some reason it lets me go beyond the limitations.)  So it's free if you accept the limitations, $50 for a normal version.  The $100 stuff seems to be Joel's way of not wanting to admit that Groove's user pricing structure is noticably cheaper than Citydesk's.

The pricing strategy is not complicated as long as you're a normal user.  Once you're an "enterprise" with time on your hands to research, Groove probably needs a few server types to meet your needs.  Maybe Groove eventually will fold that functionality into fewer types of servers, once they see what their clients want.

anon
Wednesday, October 02, 2002

There is one company that is doing what Joel recommends.  It's called Limewire, which is released for free and scrapes money from spyware and maimware.

It's a bad situation because Limewire is GNU-nice but damaging to your system.  Hopefully they're branching out, but they're limited due to funds.

anon
Wednesday, October 02, 2002

In response to SPS Guy:

I did not intend to imply that SharePoint products
themselves were free, but my impression was that the
licensing model scaled in a way more friendly to bigger
enterprises.  If I'm totally wrong though, blast away.

>> remember the bundling discussions?

No, I'm relatively new to this list ( I love it though. )  Did
the participants of this list come to a general consensus
regarding bundling? Good? Bad? 

Thomas R. Dial
Wednesday, October 02, 2002

Thomas,
  Well, I didn't mean to blast away in my first, it's just that the Sharepoint products have been so marketeered that it's easy to get things wrong.

First on the bundling issue - there's always a cost involved, bundling just hides some/all of it.  If you're having to buy the bundled software there's still a cost, it just mostly goes unseen (training, setup, development...)  Sharepoint Team services scales (in costs) very well with Office users, but I've found that there are huge training costs involved - if only because the average Office user already has a "mindset" for Office and Team Services breaks that.  Not really the fault of the product, but of the bundling - but still a cost.

The last public numbers for Sharepoint Portal Server that I heard are $4k for the server and $72/client.  In the ballpark of the groove licensing model.

SPS Guy
Wednesday, October 02, 2002

The per client costs may be high, as I don't know too much about the collaboration market.  The prices might reflect upon what Lotus Notes charges per client.  I don't think that Share Point has much of the market, yet and not sure if it ever will.  Also, I'm not so sure that downloading some client software for collaboration is the way to go, sure it provides a rich UI, but when I installed the trial version of Groove on my box, it was huge.  There are other collaboration web based companies (collab.net) that are in this space, too.  Maybe client installs are the way to go, time will tell. 

My predictions for Groove:  Within 3 years Microsoft will buy Groove and either integrate Groove with SharePoint (something they are already doing) or scrap SharePoint altogether.  I haven't used Notes in 7 years, but if Notes is still a competitor of Microsoft, they will buy Groove, then integrate Groove with SQL Server, ADSI, Office, etc.  They might even include groove with the OS, or at least Outlook...

Tim
Wednesday, October 02, 2002

SPS Guy:

I thought your comments about "actual" costs were
especially insightful.  I think some people forget that the
licensing costs are only a component of what is
commonly referred to as the Total Cost of Ownership.

Someone made a prediction about Microsoft buying Groove:
didn't they invest some huge chunk of money in Groove?

I also agree that installing a fat client on every machine
is not necessarily the best strategy.  Ozzie has defended
saying that different problems call for different solutions.
His infers that the EXE is needed because users with
laptops need to be able to work off the network.

I'm about to run my mouth here (as I am known to do!)
but I think a good strategy would be to expose the
set of collaboration services through standard "web
services."  If you need rich functionality on the
client side (or the ability to work offline) then you
write a relatively light API that exposes collaboration
objects-- but also caches data somewhere. 

Third-party developers target the API, not the web
services.  Then, when you're offline, you can still work
and you hit the local store.  If a user, for instance, adds
something to the "shared space", the changes
are queued until the user is connected again.

The reason I said that I am running my mouth is that
for all I know, this is what they already do.  I have
officially exhausted my already limited knowledge of
groove. 

PS to "SPS Guy" I didn't think you were "blasting me";
But in the future, always feel free to do so.  I am always
willing to admit that I'm wrong, and I prefer direct
(preferably funny and sarcastic and with plenty
of Simpsons references) criticism.

Thomas R. Dial
Wednesday, October 02, 2002

You are probably right, today, you should expose your data, logic, etc. via some sort of interface that allows different TYPES of clients to access (Windows clients, browsers, SMTP servers, etc.).  The downside to this is that web service communication is slower than just connecting network sockets.  The upside is that the data can be used by different clients.

As for MS buying groove, yes they did invest a lot of money in groove and it might be less costly to them in the future if they just buy them IF groove is successful...  Look at Visio, FrontPage, etc.

Tim
Wednesday, October 02, 2002

I thought Groove was good, but I definitely won't buy it now for the following reasons.  I absolutely do not trust Ray Ozzie's handling.

1)  A basic tool broke (outliner) with no fix in sight.  They say not enough people complained, so they just took it out.  Except that it does work, there's this simple but time-consuming workaround... argh.

2) It's impossible to communicate with them.  They're a big biz which targets huge enterprises.  So they demand you give them things like phone #s when you want to send them feedback.  Um... ok I won't buy licenses then to test it in my next project.  And their forum is broken.

3) Lock-in.  I was going to forgive this, but no way after 1) and 2).  I'm locked into Windows.

Now I remember why I don't buy software much anymore.  It turns me into a frothing-at-the-mouth maniac because I can't fix anything.  Some opensource projects like Tomcat may have terrible errormessages and docs, but at least I can fix the problems as they arise.  You're just so castrated otherwise.

Sammy (will contribute the $ to an opensource project instead)
Friday, October 04, 2002

IS there an open source collaboration project in the
works? 

Thomas R. Dial
Friday, October 04, 2002

I was only thinking of contributing to some random project I like.  Groove does two things that are right for collab:  using p2p, and GUI widgets.  The current alternatives don't do either.  It seems a couple years until there's a real opensource alternative to Groove, though I haven't been reading the JXTA/Gnutella mailing lists much.

Sammy
Friday, October 04, 2002

Hmm, instead of being absurdly emotional, I'm beginning real research into this now.  I'm reading all the Groove forums, and this might be helpful to you, Thomas.
http://www.groove.net/support/forums/messageview.cfm?catid=11&threadid=2161

Groove does not have an easy time, and they're being mostly smart.  Early adoption is always disappointing.  And people have been nudging me to use Groove.

Sammy
Friday, October 04, 2002

Darren:
How about specific URL's to some of these compelling experiences?
Thanks
Ray

Ray Schraff
Saturday, October 05, 2002

Thomas,
Have you actually tried using Groove on your own desktop, for real work?
Suggest you try using it, especially with the Mind Manager Preview Tool.
By the way, the Mind Manager for Groove tool is FREE.

Ray

Ray Schraff
Saturday, October 05, 2002

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