Putting Small Businesses in the ‘Groove’

Microsoft-backed Groove Networks on Wednesday
made a play for the small business market, announcing it would begin selling
a trimmed-down version of the Groove Workspace desktop collaboration
software for less than the price of a PC.

The Beverly, Mass.-based firm, which just banked $38
million in funding
from a group of investors led by Microsoft , said it would start hawking Groove Workspace Starter Kits to
provide a “mobile office” for small business and small office/home office
(SOHO) markets.

The Starter Kits would push the new Groove Workspace, which features tight
integration
with Microsoft Office and Sharepoint and will cost between
$795 and $1795, the company said.

Groove Workspace 2.5 is an online collaboration software suite that
supports key protocols for Web services like SOAP, WSDL and UDDI.

While online desktop collaboration has been a big hit for Groove with
large-scale enterprise customers, it has largely been unaffordable to the
small business/home user. Now, the company’s plan is to ship the low-end
edition to allow individuals to work together securely from the office, the
road, or the home – online or offline – without requiring servers,
networking technology or IT support.

“With Windows PCs, Microsoft Office, Internet access, and a Groove
Starter Kit, small businesses can communicate with text or voice, share and
edit documents, conduct real-time meetings and presentations, manage
projects, capture and track data using custom forms and views,” Groove
said.

Groove Networks VP David Fowler conceded the small business market,
particularly companies with less than 50 employees have been “largely
ignored” by collaboration software makers. He said it was expensive to push
server-based collaboration software to the small business market because it
require some level of IT support. Fowler said hosted offerings from ASPs
lower that barrier but argues that the new Groove Starter Kit would provide
more functionality than hosted-offerings.

For instance, he explained, it won’t charge for, or place limits on,
server-space, and won’t require collaboration servers or IT staff.

The new Starter Kits would also extend Groove software licenses to
partners, customers, suppliers and contractors and allow small businesses to
strengthen relationships, increase productivity, and reduce travel and phone
costs.

There are three versions of the Groove Workspace Starter Kits being made
available. For $1795, the company is selling 10 Groove Workspace
Professional Edition licenses; one two-hour Online Team Training session and
support for each license purchased. The Starter Kit for Workgroups, priced
at $895, offers five Groove Workspace Professional Edition licenses; five
Groove Workspace Standard Edition licenses; access to self-paced Training
Bots.

The Starter Kit for Teams offers five Groove Workspace Professional
Edition licenses; support for each license purchased and is priced at $795.

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