Sunday, March 13, 2005

Microsoft gets "Groovy"

Microsoft recently acquired Groove Networks and Ray Ozzie in one shot. Ozzie will become one of the three CTOs at Microsoft, taking care of collaborative software, for the evil empire.

So what is the big deal? From Microsoft point of view, it is another one of the acquisitions which appears to give an "edge" to its products. Groove is basically a peer to peer computing system over a secure internet connection which allows people to share documents over a network, creating a kind of virtual office. Microsoft has been an early investor in Groove, providing it funding as early as 2001. Ozzie has also aligned himself nicely with Microsoft since his days as the chief architect of Lotus Notes at IBM. Thus the acquisition is not a big surprise at all.

Ozzie has been successful in aligning his software ideas with the biggies in the game, since 1984. He worked for Lotus in developing Lotus Notes and later on continued his work at IBM, when IBM acquired Lotus. He left Lotus and IBM to start Groove in 1997 and aligned his work with Microsoft. Bill Gates, who is not too lavish in encomiums, have praised Ozzie as one of the best programmers in the universe. However tall that might sound to be, one has to accept that Ozzie is a shrewd guy with his software, and knows to position himself correctly in the market.

Ozzie is surely one of the most influential programmers of the 90s and can be credited with inventing the groupware class of software products, along with pioneers such as Mitch Kapor. It will be interesting to see how his ideas and vision will work at Microsoft, and whether the addition of Ozzie as CTO, will improve the technical quality of Microsoft products in areas where they lack sorely such as security. Ozzie has had a lot of success as an independent programmer and team leader, but it remains to be seen how that experience helps in shaping the future of collaborative software at a company of the size of Microsoft.


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