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Guy Kawasaki Takes Over TechCrunch…

OK, so we all know Guy Kawasaki plans to Change the World on his own blog. But apparently that’s not enough, he now dominates TechCrunch… and Technorati… the whole Internet? I’m not kidding, just look at his name on all posts listed by Technorati:

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Now You Can Really Zoho Offline

As much as I am a certified web-app fan, I’m not naive enough to believe I’ll always have 100% broadband availability. Crazy shooters, limited conference availability, or just traveling to less covered areas (and I don’t mean here) – there will be times when we need our documents offline.

That’s why I’m happy to see Zoho Writer get offline editing capabilities today. The offline implementation is based on Google Gears, which, ironically, has yet to show up in Google’s own Apps. This video tutorial walks you through the new features – note, the steps to install Google Gears are obviously required only once. After that, you just click “Go Offline”, and can access your documents at writer.zoho.com/offline. When you’re connected again, click “Go Online” and Zoho will sync your changes back to the original document.

The features are more than covered by all the “big names”, including TechCrunch, Read/WriteWeb, GigaOM, /Message, Digital Inspiration, CenterNetworks, Webware.com and Wired – to name just a few. I’ll focus on what’s still missing, and a few comments.

Yes, this is not a perfect solution – yet. Going offline has to be a planned activity since you actively need to click the option while still online; this is the way Google Gears works for now. But life produces unexpected situations, like the other day when I had to hop on a train, and was staring at an empty Google Reader as I had forgotten to click “Offline” at home (Google Reader’s offline capability is also based on Gears). But Zoho never stops enhancing their products, and they plan to tackle auto detecting online/offline status and periodically sync the contents of online and offline documents.

Some reviewers compare Zoho’s approach to full integration by Live Documents. I find it rather funny: since when can we compare a PR release to existing products? GigaOM’s headline is also quite surprising: Zoho Seeks to Replace, Not Embrace, Microsoft Office. Again, this in comparison to yet-to-be-launched Live Documents‘ “embrace and extend” strategy. What this comparison forgets to mention is that Zoho has their own MS Office plugins, so, using their analogy, Zoho’s strategy includes “embrace, extend or replace”. The choice is up to the users, as it should be.

Last but not least, the little birds are singing that the next Zoho announcement will prove that web-based apps can be on par with their desktop counterparts: care to guess which application I am talking about? smile_wink

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Microsoft Wants to Freeze Your Data

OK, I couldn’t resist making fun of Microsoft’s plans to open a giant data center in Irkutsk, Siberia, where winter temperatures can reach -40 degrees. Yes, that’s 40 below zero, and also the temperature where Celsius meets Fahrenheit. As for the real news, read it here:

Rough Type, All about Microsoft, WebProNews, PH “Kommersant”, TECH.BLORGE.com and Slashdot

Update: A little history: other than extreme temperatures, Siberia got her fame as the destination where Russian Tsars exiled criminals or simply their political opponents. Stalin continued this tradition, although he preferred a more direct method: execution.

This fact apperently does not excape Tech.Blorge:

The new location should serve as an ideal station to transfer all those employees who have leaked insider Microsoft information.

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Windows XP Twice as Fast as Vista?

Ouch. This hurts. Devil Mountain Software, the outfit that had previously declared Vista SP1 a Performance Dud came to the conclusion that Windows XP SP3 Yields Performance Gains – about 10% compared to XP SP2. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the very same tests show the outgoing operating system, XP twice as fast as Vista, the “flagship” OS. No wonder Forrester Research says Vista’s biggest problem is XP. smile_omg

Of course most users won’t notice it. Why? Because very few upgrade their existing computers from XP to Vista. We don’t buy operating systems, we buy computers: try to get one without Vista. (Fact: most of Microsoft’s Vista Revenue comes from the OEM channel.)

The Vista-based new screamer clearly runs a lot faster than the 3-year-old laptop running XP, but in reality it’s running at half-speed – the other half eaten by the Operating System. Which proves my earlier argument abut this being a pointless arms race: buying faster and faster machines only so they can maintain themselves and barely let us use basic applications.

Unless those applications are in the cloud. smile_wink

Related posts: PC World, Hardware 2.0 and TECH.BLORGE.com

Update (12/14): Coding Sanity has found a solution.

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Bite the Hand that Feeds You?

There’s a new online Office player in town: Sabeer Bhatia, co-founder of Hotmail, the web-mail service that perfected viral marketing and got acquired by Microsoft for $400 million, unveiled his free web-office suite yesterday. It does not look at Google, Zoho or ThinkFree, it aims at Microsoft directly:

“We are just a few years away from the end of the shrink-wrapped software business. By 2010, people will not be buying software,” Mr Bhatia said. “This is a significant challenge to a proportion of Microsoft’s revenues.”

So be it – I am a certified web-app fanboy. I’m still waiting for my trial account (and wonder if I will ever get it after this post) , so I can’t comment on the applications themselves, but I think Mr. Bhatia’s choice of a name is rather tasteless: Live Documents. What’s wrong with that? Nothing.. except the close resemblance to Microsoft’s Windows Live brand. I only have “conspiracy theories” here:

  • Live Documents is a shameless rip-off of the MS brand, Mr. Bhatia is literally biting the hand that fed him and indirectly funded this company.
  • He is riding on Microsoft’s coat-tails: his application is (supposedly) very similar to MS Office 2007, he offers a plug-in to the MS products, uses the MS Office logo quite liberally throughout his site, people know his background with MS – all this creates the impression that his products is somehow jointly developed with Microsoft. (?) While this may help gaining traction initially, I think confusing customers is a very-very bad policy. (But what do I know, I haven’s sold a business for $400Msmile_embaressed)
  • Finally, the most far-fetched speculation: this is indeed Microsoft’s secret weapon, named appropriately so it fits easily after it’s absorbed in a $billion+ deal.

I can’t wait to hear from Microsoft… Don? Cliff? Chris? Anyone?

Update (11/23): Dan Farber on ZDNEt came to the same conclusions – literally.

Update #2: As much as I don’t like the Live copycat, I have to admit calling it “service plus software” is a smart play on Microsoft’s “software plus service“, indicating the shift in priorities. smile_wink

Related stories: Times Online, Techspot, Macworld UK, PC Advisor, Digital Inspiration, Between the Lines, /Message, Rough Type , deal architect, Zoho Blogs, TECH.BLORGE.com, Read/WriteWeb, TechCrunch, Betaflow.

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Gmail … Microsoft Style

It’s definitely Holiday time: slow day, no news, my feed-reader is empty… took a walk outside, did not meet anyone. But for a minute I got confused, thinking we’re heading into April Fools’ Day, not Thanksgiving. It’s all because of Philipp Lenssen’s brilliant post: What If Gmail Had Been Designed by Microsoft?

I won’t spoil the fun, I want you to read his piece, here’s just a little teaser. Starting point, regular gmail:

He then rebrands Gmail to something longer, like Windows Live Gmail, change the URL to the more professional looking http://by114w.bay114.gmail.live.com/mail/mail.aspx?rru=home, adds new panes, breaks up messages from conversation threads into their individual parts, adjust the spam filter to be a bit more MS-like … etc. Here’s the final result:

I actually think this last pic is overdone…nevertheless, it’s good reading. Tomorrow Philipp plans to discuss “What if Microsoft had designed Windows Vista.” Artful play with the words. You could read it like this: “What if Microsoft had designed Windows Vista” – but we know that is the case, so that leaves us with the only possible interpretation: “What if Microsoft had designed Windows Vista.” smile_tongue

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US Dollar No Longer Accepted at Taj Mahal

More than symbolic confirmation of the US Dollar’s poor health: Tourist can no longer pay with dollars at the Taj Mahal, reports the Times Online.

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Zoho in the Entertainment Business?

You read it here first: Zoho must be planning to take over the entertainment business. Need proof? Just watch the promo video for Zoho Creator Mobile version. Gone are the screenshots, canned demos… it’s all Life 2.0 smile_shades

Hm… I hope his sweethearts’s phone number is not real … otherwise he’s got competition for that movie.smile_tongue

On a more serious note: Zoho is mostly known for their Office Suite and are often compared to Google and Microsoft, when talking about documents, spreadsheets and presentations. Database management and application generation are often overlooked, probably since Google does not have anything to offer in these areas. But Zoho does, and in fact that’s the application that attracts the largest active user base. Creator allows non-tech-types (like yours truly) to easily create fairly sophisticated applications, which are often shared by dozens or hundreds of users. There are about 60K (!)applications developed in Creator, used by over half a million people. (Side note: there must be a fair amount of redundancy among 60 thousand applicationss, and while you can share them publicly today, I’d like to see Zoho develop the search / categorization tools to easily locate them; a sort of “marketplace” even if there’s no actual money flow.)

We can’t really talk about Creator without mentioning a related product: Zoho DB. While Creator is an application generator, DB is primarily for data manipulation, analysis and reporting. Zoho CEO Sridhar Vembu explains the differences here.

Computerworld recently listed Zoho Creator amongst the Five free Web apps we can’t live without. There is also a blog started started by users, entirely dedicated to Zoho Creator, with special focus on using it as a small business software platform: Land of Zoho Creator.

(Disclaimer: I’m an Advisor to Zoho.)

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Blog Tracking Services Compromise Online Bank Security?

I’m not a security expert, but this warning at the Citicards site was quite a shock:

Customers using comment or blog tracking services on their computers run the risk that information submitted here could be displayed on those websites. Please disable your comment and blog tracking service before using Citi Cards Message Center.

Is this a real danger? What do you think?

Update (11/19): Several commenters here and on TechCrunch confirm what I thought myself: the warning likely refers to “tracking” products that offer a browser plug-in. In this case I was using FireFox with the BlogRovr plugin turned on. I know coComment offers a plugin, and whoever else does … well, Citibank considers it a security risk. Hm… food for thought. smile_sarcastic

Update #2: Wow, apparently this has been a well-documented problem for at least half a year, so Citi’s solution is to finally put up a warning message. smile_sad

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Ugly

OK, OK, I get it… it’s the Future of Reading. It will change the world. Yet it’s undeniably ugly.smile_sad

“This isn’t a device, it’s a service.” True, this is a much more compelling package than the Sony Reader was, but at least that other, “dumber” device had style.

I can’t help but compare to the Seiko-Epson electronic paper display (see below) announced days ago: sheer elegance. Yes, I know, it’s not a complete product, just a display… but somehow I can’t see them turn this display into something that looks like a kitchen appliance. smile_tongue

Dan Farber says:

It’s enough to make Gutenberg stir in his grave and to make Steve Jobs envious

Well, certainly not for the design…

Aesthetics aside, Anne Zelenka makes a really good point:

Wouldn’t it have been cool if Amazon built an e-book reader so inexpensive they could almost give it away for free, then make money by selling e-books for people to read on it (or selling upscale versions of the reader later)? Instead, they stuffed it so full of technological wizardry that it costs $399.

Most people have no idea if they’d really like to use an e-book reader or not. It may be something you just have to experience to grasp. But who’s going to experiment with electronic book reading when the price of entry is so high?

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos says:

“This is the most important thing we’ve ever done..It’s so ambitious to take something as highly evolved as the book and improve on it. And maybe even change the way people read.”

Something tells me it will take a price-cut to pursue that ambition…

Update (11/4): Mea Culpa for missing the point. It’s ugly with a purpose :-)