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Groove updates peer-to-peer software

The start-up is set to release a new version of its collaboration and instant messaging software. "E-mail is not a tool that really works for group discussions," an exec says.

Peer-to-peer software specialist Groove Networks on Monday will release a new version of its collaboration and instant messaging software.

Version 2.0 of the Groove software includes tools for integration with Outlook e-mail, enhanced support for Microsoft Office and new server tools for businesses using the service.

Beverly, Mass.-based Groove Networks was launched in 1997 by Lotus Notes creator Ray Ozzie. Backers include chipmaker Intel and Microsoft, which invested $51 million to acquire 19 percent of the company last year. The investment was seen another step in Microsoft's .Net strategy for shifting software functions to Web-based services.

Ozzie unveiled the first version of the Groove software in October 2000, combining communications functions such as instant messaging, voice chat and videoconferencing with a peer-to-peer file-sharing system similar to Napster's approach to sharing digital music files.

The Groove software creates a space on a computer for files that can be shared with other people using Groove over a corporate network or across the Internet. After Napster's flameout, Groove has been hailed for offering a scaled-back vision of peer-to-peer tailored to corporate needs.

The new version includes an "Outlook onramp" tool that can automatically convert e-mail attachments into documents that can be shared through Groove's collaboration tools, preventing those endless sequences of "Re:" messages, said Richard Eckel, vice president of communications for Groove. "People are seeing that e-mail is not a tool that really works for group discussions," he said.

The new version also includes tools for group editing of documents using Microsoft Word, group presentations using Microsoft PowerPoint and meeting scheduling using Outlook's calendar. Version 2.0 will be available starting Monday at $49 for the standard edition and $99 for the professional package. A preview version is available for free download from Groove.

Analysts have said that support from other software companies is key to Groove's prospects. To date, Microsoft has been the company's biggest ally--besides working with Word and PowerPoint, the Groove chat client integrates with Windows Messenger, instant messaging software included in Microsoft's Windows XP operating system.

Other key Groove partners include Documentum, which makes content management software for managing text resources on a corporate network, and e-commerce software maker Autonomy.