Putting Small Businesses In The ‘Groove’

Microsoft-backed Groove Networks this week 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.

Adapted from Internetnews.com.

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