Groove updates Virtual Office

Collaboration software supplier Groove Networks will unveil an updated version of its flagship software, which it said will offer...

Collaboration software supplier Groove Networks will unveil an updated version of its flagship software, which it said will offer better security, improved performance and new ease-of-use features.

Previously known as Groove Workspace 2.5, Groove Virtual Office 3.0 has faster launch times and allows multiple Groove project workspaces to be opened without a noticeable performance hit, according to Andrew Mahon, director of strategic marketing at the company.

The product also includes a new on-screen launch bar, where contacts with other collaborators can be managed from a single place, as well as synchronisation capabilities that allow users to automatically share folders on their Windows machines with other users. 

In addition to Groove's existing forms-editor tools, the 3.0 release includes 10 forms templates designed to allow users to more quickly use standard forms for their collaboration projects. 

On the server side, the latest version of the software includes third-party private-key infrastructure security, as well as built-in auditing capabilities and backup functions. 

Glen Johnson, director of the US State Department Iraq Transition Management staff in Washington, said Groove was chosen for a pilot project by his agency primarily because it offers better security.

"No [competing products] other than Groove secured the data in transit and on the desktop," Johnson said. 

Ethan Schoonover, e-business director in Asia for London-based advertising agency Lowe & Partners Worldwide, said some 300 workers at his company have been using Groove for preparing ad pitches, managing accounts and performing strategic research. 

Many of the new features in Version 3 are a "great example of a company really listening to user feedback and implementing requested features", Schoonover said. 

"Groove 3.0 has cleaned up and streamlined the [user interface], and overall performance is radically improved. The 3.0 memory footprint seems to be smaller in our initial review, which reduces its impact on older systems." 

With user data stored on the user's machine and automatically synced when online, "this is the killer app for us", Schoonover said. 

David Marshak, an analyst at The Patricia Seybold Group, said Groove's key strength is that it combines real-time online collaboration capabilities with off-line workspaces.

Peter O'Kelly, an analyst at Burton Group, said Groove's natural competitors include Lotus Notes/Domino, which was invented by Groove's founder, Ray Ozzie, and other products such as Microsoft's SharePoint and Macromedia's Breeze. But none match Groove's exact feature set of security, collaboration and online/off-line work capabilities. 

Pricing starts at $179 (£97) per user for Virtual Office Professional Edition, with hosted relay and management services starting at $40 per user a year. Customers can also choose to host their own Groove servers, starting at $9,995 per server per year.

Todd R. Weiss writes for Computerworld

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