counter on godaddy
post

3-year Old Millionaires

No, not talking about babies here, but two Tech icons who both reached the Million milestone around their third birthday.

TechCrunch, launched 3-year ago as Mike Arrington’s hobby blog had 1 million Feedburner subscribers for the first time last week.  Of course it’s no longer a hobby blog, but a blog network run by a professional CEO, supported by a growing blogger team.  Mike himself has become a Silicon Valley institution, his Atherton home Web 2.0 Central.

Congratulations, Mike!   And Congrat’s to the other 3-year old millioinaire:  Zoho.

When Zoho Writer launched three years ago it was the underdog compared to Writely (which later became Google Docs). But it improved week by week, was soon joined by Zoho Sheet, and one had to be blind not to see the benefits of a complete Suite on the Net.  Today Zoho has a million users, is recognized as a leader along with Google, has made inroads to the Enterprise (400K users at GE?  Not bad…), The Economist calls them the force that will Deflate IT… a lot of achievements in three years.

Once again, congratulations to both… and now the race is on: who will reach the 2 Million mark first? smile_wink

post

CloudAve Launched – and Thank You, Harry

(OK, I sinned. Mea Culpa.  I’ve just cross-posted an entire article, which is not the best behavior. But it’s not every day that I launch a new group blog – so consider this my shameless self-plug, and please subscribe to the feed.smile_wink)

We must be a crazy bunch on a suicide mission.  Why else would we launch a new blog focused on Cloud Computing and Business, when it’s just a fad that will collapse in two years?

Harry Debes, CEO of Lawson Software is a respected Enterprise Software industry veteran, but I’m afraid for all his achievements he’ll go down in history as the man who grabbed headlines with a fatally wrong call.  Of course not all wrong calls hurt one’s reputation: IBM’s Thomas Watson is still an industry legend despite the famous quote incorrectly attributed to him:

” I think there is a world market for maybe five computers“

The small difference is that what Thomas Watson could not fathom in 1943 ended up putting IBM on an amazing growth trajectory,  while Harry Debes’s view may just turn out to be fatal for Lawson – or to quote my Enterprise Irregular friend, Vinnie Mirchandani:

“That’s what American and Delta said about SW. And GM and Ford said about Japanese cars. And Sears and Wards said about WalMart.”

Another quote by Vinnie, closer to our industry:

“Dun & Bradstreet, which GEAC acquired for a song, was one of the most spectacular slides in the software market. In less than 5 years it went from dominant position to a distress sale as it missed the client/server wave in early 90s.”

I’ve seen that one close, fortunately for me from SAP’s side – the winner in that round.  We’re witnessing another tidal wave now, the shift to Cloud Computing.  It won’t happen overnight, but those who completely ignore it will vanish.  Some of my fellow Enterprise Irregulars elaborate more:

  • Vinnie Mirchandani points out that SaaS is what more and more customers want, and those who stop listening to customers inevitably hit the wall sooner or later.  Need proof?  How about this 100% SaaS customer, showcased at the recent Office 2.0 conference?
  • Jim Berkowitz  of CRM Mastery fame agrees,  adding that calling people, potential customers “stupid” never leads to any good.
  • Bob Warfield makes the case that even if we ignore what customers want and only consider profitabilty, Debes is wrong, Salesforce.com is almost as profitable as Lawson, but grows much faster, while Conquer, another SaaS success story is actually more profitable than Lawson is.
  • Jason Corsello adds that Lawson actually launched a SaaS offering last year, but experienced lackluster customer response largely to pricing and deployment issues … so now that they couldn’t pull it off, the declare the entire market doomed.
  • Josh Greenbaum concludes: “SaaS isn’t collapsing, it’s only just getting started“.

I can live with that… it’s only starting… so we’re not a suicidal bunch, after all.smile_wink But thank you, Harry Debes, for sparking a great discussion.

If you read just the few articles I’ve quoted above, you get a fairly good picture of the many benefits the Software as a Service model offers.  Let me add a few of my personal favorites:

  • Extended reach – small businesses can now have business functionality previously only available and affordable for large enterprises.
  • Commoditization of the software market – commoditization hurts most companies, except the few who drive it, but guess what – it’s great for customers.
  • End of Bloatware  – for the first time SaaS vendors can run stats and observe what features are actually used by customers, so they can cut out the fat and enhance the in-demand features.
  • New Business Models, like benchmarking – based on anonym aggregate data provide your customers with performance metrics.  Even newer business models we have not even imagined yet.
  • Dramatically changed Sales and Marketing model: pull vs. push.  Instead of the traditional sales model it’s all about transparency, information, letting informed customers find you.  The Product sells itself and your Customers are your Marketing team.

We’ll be writing about these and more. I’m a “business application guy”, so I mostly talk about SaaS – but our name is Cloud Avenue, not SaaS Avenue, for good reason: fellow blogger Krish will talk about it soon.  By the way, Krish and I got to know each other through our blogs – just like my fellow Editor, Ben Kepes, and just about all other contributors. We also have our CloudLab – for product / service reviews.  Yes, we will report on products, but do not strive to be a mini-TechCrunch: we have no intention to report about everything new.  We’re not a news-blog.  We’d rather sit back, analyze a market, find key players, then produce a series of reviews / comparative analysis.  Quality before quantity or urgency.

We’re believers in Cloud Computing, but  not over-zealous cheerleaders.  Just as I’m finishing this post, another SaaS debate erupted, which prompted Anshu Sharma to note: “there must be a Sky is Falling Support Group“.  The really notable part of the Cloud-Filled Debate @Forbes is Nick Carr’s responses: not because of the Big Switch author’s unquestionable “cloud-bias”, but because of how realistic he is:

Forbes.com: Is cloud computing over-hyped?
Nicholas Carr: At the moment, yes, and that’s typical for technological advances.

What’s your imagined time line of the adoption of cloud computing? Will it take years? Decades?
If you’re talking about big companies, I would say it will be a slow, steady process lasting maybe 15 to 20 years.

On what Gartner Research analysts call “the cycle of hype and gloom,” where do you think cloud computing is currently positioned?
It’s definitely near the peak of its hype. The doom period, when the media and IT managers realize the challenges ahead, is likely coming soon. But regardless of hype or gloom, the technology will only keep progressing.

Overhyped, slow process, doom is coming… has Nick Carr switched sides?  No, he is just being realistic – and that’s what we need to do here  @CloudAve, too. We will talk about integration problems, security issues, privacy concerns, even legal ramifications – many of these I don’t claim to know much about, which is why it’s great to have a diverse team of authors with complementary areas of expertise. And our door is never closed: we welcome guest posts, and who knows, you may feel inclined to join us as as a regular writer…

Finally, we could not afford to bring you CloudAve without sponsorship.  My regular readers know I’ve been an advisor to Zoho for years now – I’ve found them to be a showcase for a lot of my ideals.  Zoho stepped up as exclusive sponsor of CloudAve.  This does not make us a Zoho PR outlet, in fact they can expect less coverage here than they got on my personal blog.  We enjoy complete editorial independence.

What we do not have, and will not have is any form of advertising.  None of those flashy banners, boxes, making the site close to unreadable. Just pure content.  And since we are not dependent on page views, we can afford to offer our content under a Creative Commons licence.  Yes, it’s all yours, take it – just don’t forget attribution.

So here we are – welcome to CloudAve. We hope you will follow us.   And once again, thank you, Harry, for all the attention to Cloud Computing.smile_wink

P.S.  The CloudAve platform  is not exactly in nice order yet. It’s work-in-progress.

So for now, all I can do is apologize for the shabby appearance, like I did at a previous move – that one turned out quite well, didn’t it?

And talk about move – I am not abandoning this blog either, so I hope you continue to follow me both here and on CloudAve.

post

Project Management 2.0 – What’s Wrong With 1.0?

Let me quickly state that I don’t really know what the consensus definition of PM 2.0 is, but I do have a feeling based on my very 1.0-style experience.

In the 90’s I worked on a number of fairly large scale SAP Projects in a variety of roles, including Project Manager, and supervisor of several other projects.  The standard tool was Microsoft Project.  It was used for:

  • Planning a Project (initial Scoping)
  • Selling it
  • Periodic reporting to Steering Committee during the actual projects

What’s missing from the above?   Well, how about using it to help the actual daily work of project team members?

Project  team members did not even have access to MS Project, it only existed in a few copies on the PM and Team Lead’s computers.  Information-flow was one-way: feed the beast to be able to occasionally print charts that look impressive (scary) enough that Steering Committee members won’t question it.

Ok, I am admittedly sarcastic, but the point is:  PM 1.0 was all about planning, reporting and it served Management but did not help actual Project Execution.

My expectation of PM 2.0 would be that it helps all team members involved who can share information, collaborate on it and actually get clues from the system on where they are, where they should be, what their next step is, instead of just feeding the beast.

Is this the real promise of Project Management 2.0?   I hope to find out from an excellent set of panelists that I have the honor of moderating at the Office 2.0 Conference next week:

  • Andrew Filev (Wrike)
  • Bruce Henry (LiquidPlanner)
  • Mark Mader (Smartsheet.com)
  • Guy Shani (Clarizen)
  • Dean Carlson (Viewpath)

Of course this is just one of many exciting sessions – if you haven’t registered yet, you can grab a $100 discount by registering here.   Oh, and don’t forget to visit us at the Zoho Party – the address is #1 Cloud Avenue. smile_regular

(This article is cross-posted at the Office 2.0 Conference Blog)

test link

post

Office 2.0, a Most Irregular Conference – Get Your Discount Here

Nothing about the Office 2.0 Conference is even remotely ordinary.

Start with the organizer, Ismael Ghalimi, CEO of a VC-funded startup, Intalio.  That’s normally a full-time job – not when it comes to Ismael: he is also a scuba-diving instructor, a pilot, launched Monolab|Workspace, (is that Incubator 2.0?), launched the Extreme Productivity Seminar series, oh, and have I mentioned the annual Office 2.0 Conference?  ( I actually know his secret, he has two body doubles, I just haven’t been able to prove it yetsmile_wink)

Pressed for time he is turning a necessity into a virtue: year by year the Conference is a showcase of creating a successful event out of nothing in only two months. I remember the first event in 2006, when a couple of us Enterprise Irregulars were helping him plan the sessions only weeks away from the start.  A few days and a few blog posts later Ismael got flooded with request for sponsor and speaking slots.  This year history repeats itself: just a month ago the conference site was a placeholder and one could only wonder if … then a new site was born overnight, based on Jive Software’s excellent ClearSpace platform, and now it’s alive with user participation, sponsors, registration..etc.

What’s a Web-focused Conference without wi-fi?   It’s a joke that in 2008 conferences, including brands like Web 2.0, Gnomedex …etc.  still fail to provide sufficient connection.  Ismael’s solution includes laser beams to the top of the building, another one down to a terrace, then inside – making it happen with Swisscom was quite a project in itself.  Office 2.0 set the standard once and for all, anything less at major conferences is a failure.

Then there’s the issue of The Gadget.  I believe the iPod at the first conference was just more-then-generous swag.  The iPhones handed out at the second conference had an integral part at the event: several applications released specifically for Office 2.0 allowed participants to interact with each other, navigate the schedule and find sessions.  This time all paid participants will receive a the HP 2133 Mini-Note PC.

Yes, the conference swag is not pens, stickers or t-shirts: it’s a mini-computer, which cost about half the registration fee.  It will clearly raise eyebrows, and many would prefer to skip the gadget and pay reduced fees.  I think handing out such an expensive gadget will have an interesting effect on the conference demographic: we’ll likely see an increase of corporate employees, who can expense the entire conference and are less price-sensitive than startups and freelancers – the original Office 2.0 crowd.

But that may very well be what the conference needs.   There’s a reason why this year’s theme is Enterprise Adoption.  The Office 2.0 movement wouldn’t go very far with only the early pioneers, evangelists talking to themselves, dissmissing enterprise requirements.  For the principles to become practice in business, we need a more balanced mix, and in a twisted way the gadget may just help achieve that.

Those who can’t afford the full registration are not entirely locked out: Socialtext CEO and top evangelist Ross Mayfield will facilitate Un-Conference 2.0 the day before the official conference, at a cost of $50.

Finally, startups have a chance to present the attending VCs, media, bloggers at  LaunchPad – Ismael announced this event over the weekend, and already has 10 particpants – get in there while you can.  Note to my (numerous) VC readers: I hope you will be there, too.

If you’re still hesitating, check out the Agenda, the list of SpeakersMedia representatives,  and if you haven’t done so, register now.

I’ve saved the best for last: don’t use the standard registration, save $100 by registering here.

Update: while I was typing here, fellow Enterprise Irregular Dennis Howlett explained why this is an Irregular (pun intended) Conference in more than one way.  Update to the update: see Susan’s excellent summary.

(cross-posted on the Conference Blog)

post

What Are a Million Users Worth? Zoho Thinks a Lot.

The first time I wrote about Zoho – the “Safer Office” they had less than 50 thousand users – not a lot for a web service. Today they announced having a million users – and that’s just direct Zoho users, not including those served by Baihui in China, or any other white label providers.  Back then they had 3 products: Writer, Sheet and CRM – today the list includes 17 Applications, 5 Add-ons and 4 Utilities.

The chart below shows steady growth in monthly new registrations – the sudden spike in May is the effect of opening Zoho Apps to users with Google and Yahoo accounts.

Now, you may ask, what are a million users worth in the world of freebies?   Web startups do go out of business not being able to monetize their popularity.  Zoho’s story has been that Adventnet, the parent company with “boring” but reliable, cash-cow network management products is financing the “Zoho experience”.  Well, here’s an update to that story: the Zoho brand itself has been self-sustaining for a while now.

While Zoho does not disclose numbers – it’s their prerogative, being a closely held private company – they apparently have paying users.  The number one revenue generator is Zoho CRM, that they were asked to abandon in order to be allowed to join Salesforce.com’s  Appexchange.  Apparently they made the right decision, and instead of being relegated to providing an Office Suite only, they keep on adding business applications like Projects, Invoice, People, Meeting..etc.  Incidentally, these apps are where Zoho makes their money.

The free Office and other apps with the million-or-so users are Zoho’s main marketing vehicle.  As we often discussed here, they don’t have a Sales force, in fact they don’t “sell” as such: the products sell themselves.  This trend will likely increase as Zoho now increasingly focuses on integrating existing services rather then just pumping out new ones.

That is not to say that the Office Suite can’t became a source of significant revenue, but perhaps from a less expected source: while Zoho strives to become the outsourced IT department for small businesses (SMB) they have seen a flurry of large enterprise inquiries recently.  I am aware of ongoing projects with customers that even enterprise software giants SAP or Oracle would consider strategic, key accounts – let alone Microsoft. smile_wink

As for the one millionth user: Zoho CRM user Dean Detton of Prestige Automation Inc has been invited to celebrate at the Zoho Party during the Office 2.0 Conference on September 4th.

The address for the party is: 1 Cloud Avenue.  See you there! martini

(Disclaimer: I am an Advisor to Zoho)

post

The TechCrunch Fablet

Fablet: FireFox + Tablet.  The $200 device Mike Arrington & Co wants to build:

We Want A Dead Simple Web Tablet For $200. Help Us Build It.

I can’t figure out if this is real or a joke.. but we’re far from April Fool’s Day.smile_angel

I have a strong Deja Vu feeling though.   Last year I shared a Bloggers’ table with Ismael Ghalimi at a conference and watched him feverishly work away on the Redux Model 1.  He showed me some of the documentation, in a matter of a few hours exchanged specs then placed an order with component suppliers – the guy was totally obsessed.  As skeptical as I had been before, I started to wonder if he might just be able to pull it off – his energy level was just radiating…

But in the end, all the effort (and quite some money Ismael spent along the way) came down to nothing (at least for now): The Office 2.0 Conference gadget will be an HP 2133 Mini-Note PC.

That said, the Redux Model 1 was one guy’s heroic effort, while this project will largely be crowdsourced.  Still, the hardware business is tough … I have one advice to Mike: talk to Ismael.

Update:  It is not a joke:

The reason why we announced today is because we have the manufacturing/prototype etc. setup now, along with design (which we will also post for feedback etc.)

Update (7/23): Two days later, here’s the commentary from Ismael: Where is the Redux Model 1?

post

Zoho Launches in China @ Baihui.com

Just days ago we read that China, already the world leader in cellphone use, has surpassed the USA as the No. 1 nation in Internet users., so of course it’s a huge market that SaaS providers would love to enter. What better way than have the market come to you?

That’s what happened to Zoho when their Beijing Office was contacted by PC Stars, the largest online distributor in China with more than 2400 resellers and over 1000 system integrators. The are assembling a portal at Baihui, currently offering specific search and productivity tools. Their search products appear to be geared to product groups like software, hardware, games and automotive.

For the productivity apps they teamed up with Zoho, who would provide white-label versions of their products. After a few months of private beta testing, Baihui built a new data center (*), and today they are launching the Zoho Suite under their own brand:

These apps will be offered free to individual users, just like they are in the US, and CRM will have a similar pricing, too: free for the first 3 users, then 99RMB /user/months, which is about $14, close to the US pricing. (I would have thought Chinese prices to be less, but they know what they’re doing…) Baihui will later add other Zoho (Business) products.

Zoho’s current user base is 800,000 adding 100k about every 5-6 weeks, and they certainly expect that number to jump with the China deal.

OEM-ing their product is not unusual for Zoho, and especially for the parent company: there are other deals under consideration, and if you own a D-Link access point, chances are the wifi-manager software you have is from Adventnet. I plan to write a backgrounder on Adventnet, their approach to business and their international presence in the near future.

(* Please note, Baihui’s investment is into their own data center, running the Zoho Apps, not Zoho’s parent company, Adventnet, as (first) incorrectly reported on TechCrunch.) Update: it’s now fixed on TC.

post

Zoho Expands Group Collaboration

Today’s Zoho Writer update is not what it looks like. Yes, I get the story about:

  • DocX Support
  • Thesaurus (in 10 languages)
  • Enhanced Endnotes/Footnotes
  • Enhanced Headers/Footers

..etc, but that’s not what I find exciting. DocX support? Personally, I don’t care, MS Office 2003 was the last version I bought, people much smarter than me call it a completely insane format … but hey, the Borg is the market leader, so why not support it… Layout improvements? I’m already in a paperless world, barely ever print, so I don’t really care about these features. But Microsoft Office was created at a time when the purpose of document creation was to eventually print it, and in our legacy world the challenger is measured against the standards of the incumbent, so, yes, I can accept these are important features for Writer. Besides, the academic / student community has been dying for endnotes / footnotes, so now they can have it. smile_shades

But the hidden bomb here isn’t just a Writer improvement: it’s a feature that shows Zoho’s hands regarding collaboration in the entire Zoho Business Suite. Yes, I am talking about Group Sharing. After all, one of the key drivers behind moving to web-based Office applications is to enable easier collaboration.

Most of the collaborative apps, including Zoho or mighty Google typically allow either public sharing, or inviting users individually, but until now there has been no way to share your documents with a predefined set of users, i.e. members of a group. A year and a half ago I praised Google Groups for stepping out of being just a group email mechanism, becoming a mini community/collaborative platform – but the definition of a “group”, i.e.it’s members does not exist outside the Groups application, I can’t share Google Docs or Spreadsheets with my Group. (And make no mistake it’s been the same with Zoho until now.)

With today’s update you can now create a Group in the ‘My Account‘ section of Zoho, and that Group is recognizable in any other Zoho Application, including Writer, Sheet or even Zoho Mail. Eventually there will be multiple privacy / sharing levels within the Zoho Universe:

  • private
  • shared with individual email id’s
  • shared with Groups (defined once, recognized in all apps)
  • shared by Domain (i.e. share info within your business)

The last one will be a feature of Zoho Business, currently in private Beta, but the other two are available. Thesaurus in 10 languages, format and layout improvements are all nice, but the real news of the day is the improved cross-application collaboration.

Related posts: TechCrunch, Mashable, ReadWriteWeb, Wired, Digital Inspiration, Zoho Blogs.

post

Ulteohhhhh…

Before I say anything, I want to prefix this post by stating that I am an Advisor to Zoho, which can be perceived as a competitor to Ulteo, the company that just announced providing OpenOffice On-Demand. That said, I often I’ve repeatedly stated my belief that we’re at a state of early expansion for Software as a Service, and for now, the more players the better. It’s not about slicing the pie yet, it’s about making sure the pie will be huge:

Summing it all up, I believe the winner of the “on-demand race” will not be Google, Zoho, or any of their competitors – the winners will be the customers who will have a lot more choice in picking the right business solutions later this year.

So I am happy to see new On-Demand offerings that work – and am royally p***ed when they don’t. I tried to use Ulteo, repeatedly. At the first attempt in the morning, I got stuck with a blank screen:

Next I tried in the evening: I spent a minute or so at the above blank screen, but finally I got some signs of life:

Oops… I don’t know of another instance, I don’t have Openoffice installed on this machine, and a Vista glitch forced me to reboot since my early morning attempt with Ulteo. And I certainly have no clue who the *** user u7670 is or how I should close Openoffice for this user on the Ulteo servers. But let’s click Yes to continue anyway:

Why am I in document recovery mode and just what is it I am about to recover? Finally, I got into this somewhat broken screen:

Not a very positive experience, if you ask me. On the other hand, it’s still more than the previous web-office “announcement”: Live Documents, which is still to materialize…some time next year.

Like I said, I am happy to see more On-Demand services. Those that actually exist, and perhaps even work.smile_eyeroll

Update: Jason Brooks at eWeek had similar experience.

post

The Wait is Over – Zoho Show 2.0 is the Real Deal

If there’s one application where the benefits of collaborative creation, sharing, easy access from anywhere speak for themselves, that’s presentations. After all, we rarely create presentations to ourselves: it’s a one-to-many, or more typically few-to-many situation. But dealing with version number 115 of the Sales Presentation, just figuring out which one is current, let alone contributing to it while someone else might be working on a different version is a nightmare – and when you’re ready to present, you’re still prone to accidents like this.smile_embaressed

However, until now, we did not have a truly powerful online Presentation tool. Today (actually, on the weekend) it all changes: Zoho Show 2.0 is a truly PowerPoint-class application to collaboratively create, edit, show and share online presentations.

The user interface has been completely revamped, and you can start building your presentation by picking one of the 50+ default themes. You’ll find extensive support for shapes, clip-art, flow-charting, bullets and numbering. Images can be easily manipulated, rotated, flipped around.

Most presentations don’t start from scratch though (you had to get to version #155 somehow..), so Zoho’s import facility is now significantly improved. I’ve tested it by importing several PPT decks that had suffered some deterioration in Show 1.0 – they come out perfectly in 2.0.

Show 2.0 now is a perfect online replacement for PowerPoint, except for transition effects, which are in the plans for Zoho. And that’s a comparison from a single user’s point of view. But again, presentations are rarely single-user projects… Zoho Show has built in Chat to facilitate work with your co-creators, and it also integrates Zoho Meeting, a full-blown conferencing, desktop-sharing application. Here’s Wired on the subject:

Given the slew of new features and slick interface, it makes more sense to compare Zoho to Powerpoint than other online competitors like Google. But even against desktop apps Zoho Show comes out a ahead in many areas — version control, sharing, online collaboration and ability to embed finished slideshows on your website are all features you won’t find in most desktop applications.

As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, so I’ll stop talking – here’s a Show 2.0 presentation instead:

There’s also a video, which I am not embedding, as my blog often chokes while waiting for Viddler…you can easily watch it here though.

Finally, that remark above about the weekend: this is not a pre-announcement, Zoho Show 2.0 is ready, I’ve played with it. However, the servers will be updated this weekend, as there may be some downtime involved, and the Zoho team is trying to minimize the inconvenience. Show 2.0 is expected to be available late Sunday.

Read more on: TechCrunch, Read/WriteWeb, CenterNetworks , Mashable!, Between the Lines, Wired, Zoho Blogs

(Disclaimer: I am an Advisor to Zoho)

Update (12/15): The update appears to be done, if you log in to your Zoho account, you’ll see Show 2.0. (Remember, the update was expected later during the weekend, I’ve just accidentally discovered it now, which does not mean it’s really complete – the Zoho team might very well be still tuning it.)

There are some amazing slideshows in the Public presentations area, like this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this and this, just to pick a few.