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You can never be too rich, says Groove Networks

IBM's announcement last week of plans to deliver software designed to create a centrally managed server hub for delivering enterprise apps to PCs seems to have fired up the old thick- vs. thin-client debate, at least among analysts and the tech media. Industry mavens noted that Big Blue's new thin-client Lotus Workplace offering could loosen mighty Microsoft's tight grip on the desktop.

But Microsoft isn't the only software maker who believes you can never be too rich (as in rich client). Beverly, Mass.-based Groove Networks, founded by Ray Ozzie (who, by the way, created Lotus Notes way back when) believes in the power of enterprise applications running on the desktop.

'We are very much planted in the rich-client environment,' Matt Pope, Groove Networks' project manager, told Programmers Report. 'Organizations are becoming increasingly decentralized, and the workforce is becoming increasingly mobile. Our fundamental belief is that it becomes far simpler and far more efficient to support those two environmental evolutions [decentralized and mobile] with rich client software.'

Groove definitely believes that a thick-client approach provides more robust programming opportunities for developers. Later this summer, the company plans to release some new tools designed to provide developers with a unified development product package, complete with documentation and tools for building Groove solutions with .NET, Web services and Groove forms. The new Groove Development Kit (GDK) V3.0 is the third-generation developer offering for the Groove platform, and it is touted as a tool for simplifying access to the core capabilities of Groove's software.

Groove is designing the GDK to serve a broad range of developers, 'from more novice occupational developers who need to create forms-based solutions to more professional .NET and Web services coders,' according to company officials.

'It's intended to facilitate the rapid application development and deployment of enterprise-class solutions that entail gathering, sharing, analyzing and integrating structured data,' Pope said. 'A key point here is that it does this in a way that requires minimal IT investment or involvement, so it becomes very easy for users on the edge, so to speak, to quickly create and adapt these process-oriented solutions.

'If you look at the IBM announcement and some of the things that Microsoft is doing with Longhorn, I think we're starting to see the pendulum shifting a bit back toward the rich client,' he added. 'We'll see how that plays out, but we are certainly a firm believer in rich client.'

Groove is a leading provider of so-called decentralized software for business collaboration (what we used to call peer-to-peer computing). The Groove platform consists of a set of core capabilities, including secure data synchronization, activity awareness and contextual conversation. These capabilities are accessed through Groove forms applications, or open APIs exposed through .NET technologies and Web services, Pope explained. Groove can be integrated with back-office systems and data sources to provide a synchronized bridge between unstructured team activity and structured business processes.

The company is a leading ISV on Windows, and its strategic relationship with Microsoft is a strong one. The Redmond, Wash.-based software giant has invested millions in the company (approximately $51 million in 2002), and Groove is a Longhorn design partner. It is not surprising to find plenty of support for Microsoft's .NET in the new Groove toolset.

According to Pope, corporate and independent software developers use the Groove platform to create solutions for virtual teams and mobile workers who must share information, work jointly on projects, and execute business processes anywhere at any time, online and offline.

The new GDK is expected to provide developers with three options for creating and deploying Groove-powered solutions:

  • A Forms-based Groove Workspace Explorer tool for building business process solutions (e.g., incident tracking, customer tracking) that run within Groove Workspace Explorer. 
  • Custom Groove Workspace Explorer tools developed using the Groove Toolkit for Visual Studio .NET that run within Groove Workspace Explorer. 
  • Web services solutions that are deployed as discrete applications that consume some or all of Groove's virtual office capabilities via a Web services API.

So what's a rich-client software maker doing with a Web services offering? 'When we talk about Web services, it's a little different from the way most people talk about it,' Pope explained. 'We've put Web services on the client platform itself. That means that the desktop client is a Web services provider and, thus, those services are accessible and consumable either locally by other applications on the same device or remotely by applications on a different machine.'

GDK V3.0 is currently in beta testing by registered Groove developer partners and select corporate customers. Groove plans to offer the kit for free to registered users of Groove Workspace Professional Edition or higher. More information on the GDK is available at http://www.groove.net/

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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