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SupportMagic: Running Out of Support, Waiting for Magic

OK, I admit, that’s a tacky title…  I just couldn’t resist smile_embaressed

Seriously though, here’s a weird post on VentureBeat:

CRM company, Support Magic, for sale on VentureBoard

“Support Magic, out of Bangalore, is the latest company to put up a for-sale sign at VentureBoard.”

OK, let’s check out the VentureBoard listing:

Launched on 09-November-2006, SupportMagic (www.supportmagic.com) is an on-demand customer interaction management solution that enables companies to deliver an exceptional customer experience online.”

Launched 3 weeks ago and already for sale? Wow!   Let’s clarify it on the company’s site:

Public BETA launch on 09-November-2006.

Gotcha.  Let’s check out the blog:

“Some are asking “Where can I download SupportMagic?”
Well, you can’t.
SupportMagic is an on-demand (remotely hosted) solution that runs on our server. There is nothing to download OR install.
Register with us, follow the instructions we send you & simply map your “Support URL” to our application IP and you are ready”

Hm .. why would anyone want to sign up for a hosted application by a company already up for sale?  Oh, well, let’s now go back to the for sale ad:

Competitors: RightNow, LivePerson & Talisma.”

Wow…wow…wow… 3 weeks into beta and competing with RightNow, a $100M company? Give
me a break smile_angry

But hey, that’s the ad, put up by the company itself. They may be full of it, but probably learned from #1 that in the CRM space you need a big mouth.smile_tongue   However, VentureBeat repeats the same statement in the front page story:

“Support Magic, out of Bangalore, is the latest company to put up a for-sale sign at VentureBoard. It is an on-demand customer interaction management software company that competes against RightNow, LivePerson & Talisma…”

Matt, I really like VentureBeat – this kind of fluff does not belong there… it dilutes your brand. smile_sad

   

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Zoho Releases MS Office Plug-ins, API’s and Desktopized Web Apps

Zoho releases product updates more or less weekly, and I don’t normally write them – frankly, I can’t keep track. (I do know, however, that Zoho Sheet that was just a cute but limited editor when I first looked at it is by now way beyond my average spreadsheet needs.)

Today’s announcements, however, fit the theme I laid out  in the previous post about Microsoft Office, specifically about getting released from Microsoft-prison. They way to get there is to be able to easily work with Microsoft documents (spreadsheet, presentation) formats without the need for bloated and overpriced MS software.

Directly opening/writing to MS formats was the obvious starting point; in the previous post I mentioned Zoho Quickread, a plug-in that allows opening of any MS Office files directly from the browser (IE, FF) without first importing/converting them. 

Today Zoho adds plug-ins for MS Office, which allows users to save their work online to Zoho directly from within Microsoft Word and Excel:

By the same token Zoho documents and spreadsheets can be opened directly in MS Office:

 

The first version of Zoho’s open APIs are also released today. 3rd party applications can now easily be integrated with the Zoho Suite. A good example is when online storage  services (OmniDrive, Box.net …etc.) open the documents directly in Zoho and even save them back to their own storage system using the APIs. 

Desktopize ( I kind of liked the previous name, Bubbles, as long as it’ wasn’t referring to Bubble 2.0 smile_tongue) is a good example for productive partnerships.   When Desktopize is installed, it creates Zoho icons on the desktop, allows users to click on them and work in Zoho without the browser as if it was a desktop application, close the window and have it minimized to the systray:

The pic above shows me editing this very article in the desktopized version of Zoho Writer, the Zoho icons in the lower left corner, and the Zoho writer icon in the systray.  Desktopize also allows drag-and-drop uploading from your files directly to Zoho Apps.

These are just one day’s worth of Zoho updates; to keep abreast, check out the Zoho Blogs.

Related posts:

TechCrunch

VentureBeat,

CyberNet Technology News, Digital Inspiration, The CIO Weblog

(disclaimer: I’m an advisor to Zoho)

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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Microsoft is Freeing Users from Office-Prison

The likely reason news of Microsoft’s Office 2007 “Kill Switch” did not cause a lot more uproar is that it surfaced during Thanksgiving week:

“Buried in a Knowledge Base article that Microsoft published to the Web on November 14 are details of Microsoft’s plans to combat Office 2007 piracy via new Office Genuine Advantage lockdowns.

Office 2007 users who can’t or won’t pass activation muster within a set time period will be moved into “reduced-functionality mode.””

As unpopular as this move will be, it’s perfectly within Microsoft’s rights to dump users who don’t become customers. The question is, is it a smart move? ZDNet attempts to do the math in The economics of Microsoft’s kill switch:

“Would you sacrifice $10 million in sales to prevent $1 billion in software piracy? How about $100 million? How many customers would you annoy?”

I don’t think it’s simply a numbers game. Whatever Microsoft’s “loss” to piracy is, it’s not going to be converted to sales. First of all, the “kill switch” comes with the retail product, large corporate customers volume licence is not affected.  So we’re talking about smaller businesses and individuals (I am focusing on the US market). A fraction of these may be “forced”  to buy a licence, but the large majority won’t.   What we really need to look at is why these users run MS Office in the first place.

“The simple argument that ‘this is good enough for 90 percent of what we do’ has fallen on its face over and over and over again,”Microsoft would like us to think.

I don’t buy it.  I don’t use fancy features in Word, have repeatedly stated that my Excel skills are on the level I learned using Lotus 1-2-3 – yet I have Office on my computer.  So does virtually anyone who occasionally needs to receive/send files to Corporate America.  Not because they need all the features, but out of fear (losing compatibility) and laziness.   But believe me, these users will rather switch to another product than shell out hundreds of dollars for a MS licence.

They might actually find the experience quite rewarding.  OpenOffice is a free alternative, but it’s big, clumsy, needs installation and updates just like MS Office – web-based alternatives, “Office 2.0” products are increasingly powerful, fast, easy-to-use, and allow one to access files anywhere.  It’s safer in the cloud smile_wink.
Office 2.0 vendors bend over backwards to make it easier to work with Microsoft files.  Zoho ( a Client of mine) has a full online Office Suite that easily imports MS files, and of course saves your work in doc, xls and other MS formats, just as well as PDF and several others.  The Zoho Quickread plugin allows opening of any MS Office files directly from the browser (IE, FF) without first importing/converting them. Tomorrow Zoho will release plugins for the major MS Office products, making it easy to save files online directly from within the Office applications.

The danger for Microsoft is not the direct financial impact of these users turning away from their product, since the never paid in the first place. It’s losing their grip; the behavioral, cultural change, the very fact that millions of people – students, freelancers, moonlighters, small business workers,  unemployed – realize that they no longer need a Microsoft product to work with MS file formats.  Microsoft shows these non-customer users the door, and they won’t come back – not even tomorrow when they are IT consultants, corporate managers, executives.  That’s Microsoft’s real loss.

Update (11/30):  See TechCrunch and the Zoho blog on the new announcements.

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Machine-translated Blogs? No, Thank You.

I made fun of the sorry state of machine-translation a few times before:
TechCrunch “Narcotic”:-) (or the state of machine translation today)  and
Sans Accent; Marc Fleury’s Feet in the Dish and the Walk of the Waiters  so when I received a Mybloglog invitation to check out the English version of a blog, the last thing I expected was a machine-translated version of the French original.

The motto of the blog:

“The transformation of our company thanks to information technologies deserves a lighting… and reactions! My DataNews deciphers without turnings the topicality of the information systems, technology, the WEB, and the associated trades.”

The most recent post title:

The point on the function “Dated Management” (Management of the data)

“…Although shy person, this recent evolution is very positive, because it more stresses from now on the contents (the data customers, products, markets, suppliers) rather than on a technical container (the data base)”

Although with great effort I could guess what the blogger is trying to say, as written, this is pure crap.  Crisptophe, whoever you are (incidentally, messaging “Hi Zoli ! You can now read my blog in English !!!” to a totally unknown person is not the best way of introduction), I’m sure you are smarter then this, and you write a quality blog.  But for now, if you want it multi-lingual, you have to do what Mike Arrington did at TechCrunch: hire translators – or do it yourself.  But do yourself a favor, remove the machine-translated version, it does not do you any good. smile_sad

 

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I’m Black and May Be Flying You One Day

My gmail account exploded with spam.  After marking hundreds of emails as spam, the gmail filter starts working better again – I still have to comb through for false positives.  

Today I found a gem.. it really made me laugh:

“Thank you for contacting the Organization of Black Airline Pilots, Inc. Professional Pilot Development Program.”

Hilarious.  Almost as good as the job profile I received earlier. smile_sarcastic

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SVASE VC Breakfast with Walden VC in San Francisco – Sold Out

I’ll be moderating another SVASE VC Breakfast Club meeting this Thursday, Nov 30th in San Francisco.  As usual, it’s an informal round-table where 10 entrepreneurs get to deliver a pitch, then answer questions and get critiqued by a VC Partner. We’ve had VC’s from Draper Fisher, Hummer Winblad, Kleiner Perkins, Mayfield, Mohr Davidow, Emergence Capital …etc.

Thursday’s featured VC is Larry Marcus,  Managing Director, Walden Venture Capital. The Zvents post has all the info and a map; and normally I would link to registration but this event has sold out. thumbs_up (here’s a list of future events, 2 in December, so you could sign up in time)

These sessions are a valuable opportunity for Entrepreneurs, most of whom would probably have a hard time getting through the door to VC Partners. Since I’ve been through quite a few of these sessions, both as Entrepreneur and Moderator, let me share a few thoughts:

  • It’s a pressure-free environment, with no Powerpoint presentations, Business Plans…etc, just casual conversation, but it does not mean you should come unprepared!
  • Bring an Executive Summary, some VC’s like it, others don’t.
  • Follow a structure, don’t just talk freely about what you would like to do, or even worse, spend all your time describing the problem, without addressing what your solution is.
  • Don’t forget “small things” like the Team, Product, Market..etc.
  • It would not hurt to mention how much you are looking for, and how you would use the funds…
  • Write down and practice your pitch, and prepare to deliver a compelling story in 3 minutes. You will have about 5, but believe me, whatever your practice time was, when you are on the spot, you will likely take twice as long to deliver your story. The second half of your time-slot is Q&A with the VC.
  • Last, but not least, please be on time! I am not kidding… some of you know why I even have to bring this up.

Here’s a participating Entrepreneur’s feedback about a previous event.

See you in San Francisco!Zbutton

 

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Gmail’s Spam Filter Threw Up Today

So far I’ve found Gmail’s spam filter robust, reliable: catches 99% of spam without false positives.  In fact I liked it so much that I recommended using Gmail’s services even for non-gmail accounts.

Today is a bad day: Gmail threw up on me, dumping hundreds of spam items in my inbox.  Interestingly enough, it only happened to one of my gmail accounts.

Anybody having similar experience?

Update (11/28): How timely .. this Reuters piece on spam, via Techmeme.

Update (1/14): Mine is OJ now, but now it’s Marshall’s turn… 

 

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Laptops are "Safer" than Desktops :-)

Laptops are “safer” in certain situations smile_shades

 

…although they can be harmful in other ways smile_sad

 

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ProtectMyPhotos Protects More than Just Photos

Update: This service is no longer available.

I’ve been a happy user of ProtectMyPhotos for over a month now. The best thing about it is that I’m barely aware it’s working: after installing the client one can completely forget about it. Now, this is exactly what I said about Mozy a little while ago, so what is different here?

First of all, let’s define what ProtectMyPhotos is: an online photo data backup/restore service with quite a few bells and whistles added. As usual, TechCrunch has the detailed review, so I will focus on positioning and some comparative analysis here, which is not quite easy, for it resembles/competes with several other services, yet does not fully replace either.

When it comes to online photo storage, we tend to think of Flickr, Zooomr and the like – but those services are primarily focused on sharing, and you have to manually upload photos. This is the part that’s fully automated by ProtectMyPhotos: just like with Mozy, you download a client application, set your preferences on what you want to back up (let it find photos or manually select directories), then leave it alone. From now on all your photos are synchronized with the online version, non-intrusively, as the program runs in idle time and throttles back when you start using your computer. The system keeps multiple versions of your photos online, so you get to pick which version to restore from (“userproof system” in case you mess up your current versionsmile_tongue) .

Unlike Mozy and other backup/storage services, ProtectMyPhotos allows easy access to your online pictures: your original directory structure is preserved, you can browse and display, even do basic photo manipulation online that is synchronized back to your PC.

When I first looked at the pre-launch service, it clearly focused on photos only; since then they added support for several office document types (doc, xls, pdf …etc.), as well as financial documents like Quicken and MS Money files. This is of course great, but why the restriction? Without the file type limitation this would be a full-featured online backup / storage service. Of course then it should be called ProtectMyFiles, but that domain name is taken. smile_sad

A mobile edition, publishing to Flickr, opening files locally (not just photos, Word, Excel ..etc also) and automatic synchronization of multiple computers are amongst a host of new features recently announced.

The last one is a (potential) biggie for me: it could replace useful but unreliable FolderShare – if it wasn’t for the file type restriction.

In summary, I’m somewhat puzzled: ProtectMyPhotos definitely does more than just protect my photos, overlaps with several other services but the file-type limitation forces me to run redundant applications: Mozy, FolderShare and ProtectMyPhotos. I certainly wouldn’t mind reducing the clutter in my systray…

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The New York Times’s Foolproof Way of Alienating Readers

Nobody likes surveys, but sometimes we care enough to do them.  But who in their right mind wants to be interrupted in the middle of an an article, flipping between pages?   That’s what the NYT is forcing, rather aggressively: articles are broken up to small pages, then clicking on “Next” brings up the survey, instead of page 2 of my story.

How many times do I have to say no? Apparently the NYT decided to ignore readers’ wish to opt out:

Click the “Yes, I’ll take the Survey” button at right to begin — you will not be recruited for this survey again after that. If you opt not to participate, click the “No Thanks, Take Me to My Destination” button. You won’t be recruited for the survey again for 24 hours.

The ONLY way to get rid of the annoyance is to say YES, otherwise they will keep on bothering you every single day.  That’s ridiculously aggressive.  The New York Times sure knows how to alienate readers.smile_angry