Microsoft announced yesterday that it is buying Groove Networks for an undisclosed sum.

Groove is the brainchild of Lotus Notes creator Ray Ozzie. It makes a wide range of software and development tools that allow geographically dispersed workers to collaborate over the internet.

The company's Virtual Office product allows workers to communicate and securely share information such as files, calendars, sketch pads, task lists, Web links, and photos over the Internet.

Microsoft plans to add Groove's products to its Microsoft Office product line. Ozzie, a recognised visionary who helped found Lotus Software, will become Microsoft's CTO.

Groove's technology will complement Microsoft's collaboration products, such as Microsoft Office SharePoint Portal Server and Windows SharePoint Services, as well as the newly announced Microsoft Office Communicator 2005, Microsoft Office Live Communications Server and Microsoft Office Live Meeting.

Acquiring Groove will give Microsoft a way to reach out to the growing number of companies with mobile workers and remote offices.

In particular, the Groove's technology for creating ad-hoc workspaces will extend the reach of Microsoft's collaboration technology, allowing workers to communicate securely over the internet and work in decentralised environments outside of the corporate network.

Upon completion of the acquisition, Groove will become part of Microsoft's Information Worker Business, but will continue to operate from its Beverly offices.