PACKET RAT: Rat busts a move with Microsoft and AOL

The Rat

Michael J. Bechetti

Microsoft Corp.'s purchase of Groove Networks has spawned a pun fest at Hacienda del Rat'n.

'Looks like this is how Bill Gates gets his Groove back,' the whiskered one cackled as he and his spouse sipped coffee on the veranda. 'I can hardly wait to see what kind of dance he performs at the next Microsoft sales meeting.'

Groove, the collaboration software company started in 1997 by Lotus Notes creator Ray Ozzie, has been drinking the Redmond Kool-Aid for a while, long before the acquisition was announced. Microsoft already held just shy of a 20-percent stake in the Beverly, Mass., company. And Groove's virtual office software has been integrated deeper and deeper into Microsoft Office Groove had even ditched its own integration technology in favor of Microsoft's .Net application program interfaces.

As part of the deal, Ozzie becomes Microsoft's chief technology officer, reporting to chief software architect Gates. Rat thinks maybe the org chart should read the other way around. 'Why not?' the cyberrodent chuckled. 'After all, at least Ray has his bachelor's degree.'

Groove brings with it some decent security karma, which Microsoft could definitely use. Groove software has been used as a platform for information sharing at the Homeland Security Department and the Defense Department, and it has plenty of fans elsewhere in government.

Meanwhile, security experts still point to Microsoft's other collaboration tools, such as Outlook and Exchange, as among the top attack targets in enterprise computing.

Maybe Microsoft's BackOffice team can learn something from the way Groove keeps data locked up. A rat can hope.

Speaking of insecure, recent changes to America Online Inc.'s terms of service for using AOL Instant Messenger have made the Rat bust a groove of another sort.

As if it weren't bad enough that he'd run across people using AIM within the office for pseudo-official messages, such as rounding up people for meetings, now the Dulles, Va., company's laying claim to any text that traverses its system.

The new TOS'which made the Rat want to TOS his cookies'says: 'By posting content on an AIM product, you grant AOL, its parent, affiliates, subsidiaries, assigns, agents and licensees the irrevocable, perpetual, worldwide right to reproduce, display, perform, distribute, adapt and promote this Content in any medium. You waive any right to privacy.'

'Maybe CNN is looking for something titillating to run on its news ticker,' the Rat cracked, referring to the fact that Time Warner owns both AOL and CNN.

'Let me guess,' Mrs. Whiskered One thought aloud. 'They're going to turn all those teenage IMs into a new reality television show.'

'Well, they'll have to do something,' the Rat replied. 'Because they're going to lose a huge chunk of advertising views when every office in America bans AOL IM for privacy reasons. In which case, let me be the first to LOL.'

The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad packets in cyberspace. E-mail him at rat@postnewsweektech.com.

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