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Can Tiny Zoho Beat Microsoft and Google in Online Office Apps? The Real Sanity Check

  If you write a blog you’ve probably had the feeling I have this morning: want to react to an article – but I already did just that, a month ago.   Nevertheless, TechRepublic’s piece on Sanity check: Can tiny Zoho beat Microsoft and Google in online office apps? is a good one, worth another go at the subject.

Executive Editor Jason Hiner is impressed by the Zoho Suite:

“It’s impressive that Zoho has created a broad fleet of full-featured online apps in a short period of time, but just as significant is the fact that it has done it without sacrificing simplicity and usability. That points to software that is well-conceived and well-developed.”

Jason finds that almost all of Zoho’s apps have the best feature set in their class of online apps, and he is not alone: see the MIT Technology Review, Gartner and countless blogs  in agreement.  He also points to potential weaknesses:

  • business model
  • security (of not just Zoho, but online apps in general) 
  • full offline capability.

It’s good to see Zoho’s Raju Vegesna acknowledge these, and stating they are working on them.  In the past 18 months Zoho has proven that when they say  “we’re working on it”, they better be taken seriously.

TechRepublic concludes:

In taking on Microsoft and Google in the office application arena, Zoho sees itself in the same mold as Microsoft taking on IBM in PCs in the early 1980s and Google taking on Microsoft and Yahoo in search in the past decade. It would be easy to wave off Zoho as a bug destined to be squashed, but judging by the quality of what Zoho has created so far, I wouldn’t count it out.

A very nice review, but let’s have a real sanity check: the question isn’t whether tiny Zoho can beat Microsoft and Google, but whether it needs to beat them at all.  I don’t think so.

This is not a winner-take-it-all, zero-sum game: all players, including Google and Zoho are creating a new, emerging market.  It’s not about slicing the pie yet, it’s about making sure the pie will be huge – and Google’s brand is the best guarantee to achieving that.  Little Zoho can be a tremendously successful business being second to Google.  There will always be room for a second .. third… perhaps fourth. Data privacy, the quality of the products, better service, or just having a choice – there will always be reasons for customers to opt for a non-Google solution.

The above is a quote from my earlier post, The Web Office Smackdown – Why It Does Not Matter, which covers further details, including Zoho’s small business apps, beyond the scope of Office.  For a better understanding of what Zoho is all about, I warmly recommend Sramana Mitra’s interview series with Zoho CEO Sridhar Vembu.

Comments

  1. hmm, I don’t know that it’s that simple…. Both Google and Microsoft have a broad base of customers, potential customers, and name recognition that zoho simply doesn’t have. Sure Zoho may get a solid set of customers to support a small business, but certainly not any significant portion of the market that MS and Google are going to fight over.
    http://joshmaher.wordpress.com/2007/07/16/more-microsoft-strategy/

  2. I also don’t understand why people expect any company that offers web based office apps to beat Google or Microsoft. I think it is a result of the hit based mindset in our society. It is not necessary that every company that comes into the business world need to aim for world domination and beat the established players. As Chris Anderson’s Long Tail concept has proved, the companies can aim to cater to the long tail of niche groups and still be successful. Zoho is not a mammoth which needs to get fed with huge amounts of cash. They are a nimble team producing apps with such rich feature sets. This nimbleness allows them to be a successful player without kicking the ass of giants like Google in the web office field (I will include Microsoft along with Google after they release their web product in this area).

  3. Either way you go…without an efficient software infrastructure, we could not have coped with the expansion of the past years. Previously, financial accounting and retail were accommodated by stand-alone applications. A custom interface supported communication between the two applications, which meant that data had to be captured twice or imported a second time.
    We realized that at some point in the near future, this type of data handling and storage would no longer support our expanding business and would render the system too inflexible to support the expanding number of product variants. This led to the decision to implement a new solution that could handle everything – now and in the future.
    We are in San Diego and were paired up with a company called Tryarc (www.tryarc.com) in Los Angeles. They are a premier SAP business partner. While our first impression was SAP is too much for what we need, Tryarc turned us onto the SAP solution for small and midsize enterprises; it’s called SAP Business One. A subsequent presentation of the product had us convinced. SAP Business One was implemented in just a matter of weeks – in part because the standard functions of SAP Business One matched 95% of our business processes. We implemented an interface to our Web shop using SAP Business One Software Development Kit, enabling incoming Internet orders to flow automatically into the business software.
    Now, all enterprise management functions are accommodated in one system. SAP Business One provides entirely new opportunities. The only alternative would have been to invest considerable sums in additional stand-alone solutions. Our infrastructure made this pointless. In addition to being the more economical solution, SAP Business One is more comprehensive. It plays its part in making the processes in the company much more transparent than before. Purchasing and sales processes used to be separate, manual transactions supported by paper forms that were stored in file cabinets and forwarded by hand when required. Today, when an order is created and confirmed, a delivery note and invoice are generated, giving the warehouse the go-ahead for delivery. In parallel, the transaction is shown as an open item in accounting. If the merchandise is in stock, customers can receive their order immediately.
    Finally, each department can access this system and exchange data with the other divisions. The result is a significant improvement in the internal information flow. This is particularly important for an enterprise like ours that covers all of the manufacturing steps – from development and production to sales and technical support. Today, the time between placing an order and delivery averages less than 24 hours. The improvements delivered by SAP Business One lay the groundwork for the continuing growth of our company. For example, we are planning to exchange price and delivery data with its customers via an electronic data interchange interface in the near future.
    The enterprise wide system is an investment worth it’s weight in gold. We could not be happier with SAP and the people at Tryarc who helped us get up and running.

  4. Sam, or whoever you are. I will not delete this comment, because you do make a point about the value of integrated systems, which, as a former SAP-er I appreciate. But generally speaking, this would be considered spam since:

    – It’s a canned long sales pitch not directly relevant to the subject (OK, a tiny bit relevant, very remotely).

    – You misrepresent yourself. Next time, if you pretend to be a customer, you might want to drop some detail of “your” business, that would actually support your long pitch.

    Last but not least, I used to run businesses like Tryarc, and I don’t think spam is the best way to market yourselves.

  5. Zoli, I can appreciate what you are saying. I see how this looks. I did not misrepresent myself in the least. I am a novice blogger…that much is true. I did not give details about my business because I did not want it to become an informercial for us. I think the online apps “war” is fascinating. It will change the way we look at not only in-house apps/ computing but business apps as well. Those not in front of the curve will be left behind. We looked at the Dynamics offerings and felt we are better suited with the direction SAP is headed in the small and medium business marketplace. We truly have a full integration in our workplace…as a result the collaboration of ideas to grow my company could not be better. Thanks for your forum. This is a great thing!

  6. Zoli – it’s back door marketing spam. Don’t these people ever learn?

  7. Amit Mahajan says:

    Instead of comparison I would look for features.Current user’s just don’t require sharing and hosting of documents they need more than that.They need all there personal information to be one placed and easily managable.Due to this concept of webtop(Fucntionalities like desktop in web browser) is really emerging. One of the best example is http://www.edeskonline.com. I wonder instead of compition war they shouldn’t loose focus about current user’s requirements.

  8. I’ve just tried the editor in edeskonline. You’ve gotta be kidding to even call it an editor…

  9. I agree with you that edeskonline is not an editor. But I dont think Amit is trying to call edeskonline an editor. I am personally using edeskonline as a productivity tool. edeskonline is actually a collection of various productivity applications which are integrated with each other.

    i would not restrict my view of online office apps as simple editors. we already have too many of them in the market anyways. What microsoft, zoho, thinkfree, google and edeskonline are trying to do is to make everyone understand that by delivering office apps online, you can bring the benefits of an ERP to the individual professional, an IRP (Individual Resource Planner).

    I started on this productivity path by first using zoho and was very happy with their product. But speed and integration of the applications was a major headache. But now I am very happy with edeskonline. It is fast, with well integrated applications and the best part is that i can access it also on my mobile.

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