post

Now You Can Get Your Google Apps Data Backed Up for Free. Startup Econ 101: When Giving it Away is a Good Deal.

Ouch that’s a longish title. OK, I admit, I am tired, could not decide between two messages and ended up combining them.  Well, let’s see the messages.

The Art of Pricing

The other day I got into a tweet convo with a Startup Entrepreneur whose product I found interesting, at least at first glance.  But he has a problem: the entry point for one user is $20/month – and then the price scales up.  I tried to convince him to drop the entr

y price point to either free, or $1-$2 – something that allows impulse buy.  He defended his pricing on a value basis.  In principle he is right – but there’s the small problem that nobody knows about his product.  In this case “giving away” value would become his marketing, would allow for growth, and he could scale his pricing as aggressively as he wanted. He badly needs enthusiastic users that become his marketing army.

My friend and fellow Enterprise Irregular Charlie Wood (that was my bias disclosure…) understands this…

(Cross-posted @ CloudAve » Zoli Erdos)

post

Firefox 3: Lost a Few Extensions, Found Others… No Smooth Sailing Though

Several of my favorite Firefox extensions did not make it to 3.0 for compatibility reasons, but I found functional equivalents for almost all.  Amongst the (temporary)  losses is  Zoho QuickRead, being replaced by OpenITOnline (The Zoho Team tells me QuickRead will be FF3 compatible in a few days The FF3 compatible Zoho QuickRead update is now available).

OpenITOnline is a handy extension that allows you to read documents online without the need to first download, then open them in the relevant Office applications.  The file formats currently handled are:

  • Documents (*.doc, *.rtf, *.odt, *.sxw)
  • Spreadsheets (*.xls, *.csv, *.ods, *.sxc)
  • Presentations (*.ppt, *.pps, *.odp, *.sxi)
  • Images (*.jpg, *.gif,*.png)

There’s an easy guided setup, where I changed the default Zoho Viewer to the relevant “active” services, i.e. Zoho Writer, Sheet and Show.  OpenITOnline also supports Google Docs and ThinkFree.

My old-style del.icio.us extension was replaced by the functionally richer new one.  The PayPal Plugin became a casualty, just days after I had discovered it.

The upgrade itself was anything but smooth sailing, and I’m not referring to the initial download fiasco.  The new Firefox appeared to work fine on the Vista PC, but exhibited strange behavior on two XP machines.

It simply did not “remember” the settings for two key extensions: every single time I started Firefox I got flooded by pop-up windows to configure Gmail Manager (one window for each account) and had to go through the hoops of setting up Foxmarks. For a while I thought the extensions were to blame, or perhaps a strange interaction with some of the new extensions – once you’re on the wrong track, you can spend hours uninstalling/ reinstalling them in various sequences.  But then I noticed some of my default settings were gone, homepage reset, cookie handling and history tracking all changed.  Weirdest of all was the fact that the “OK” button did not work on any configuration/setup screen.

So now I knew something was wrong with Firefox itself – to cut a long story short, I could fix one of the laptops by some magic sequence of uninstalling/reinstalling everything a few times, but the other one was hopeless.  I had to resort to brute force: uninstall Firefox, wipe out all related directories (those ugly documents etc.. \user\ local data\whatever paths), then System Restore to the day before the Firefox upgrade, then install everything again, followed buy repeated Windows and McAfee updates that the system forgot due to the Restore.  It was ugly.

Now Firefox 3 (almost) works, except that the “Use my choice for all cookies from this site” button does not seem to do anything. (Update: It’s damn frustrating having to hit the same button a zillion times!)

I lost about half a day, and more importantly at a time I really couldn’t afford it, had more urgent things to do.  Not the first time, and I’m afraid not the last one either.  But this time I’ve decided to do something about it: I’m presenting a virtual invoice to Mozilla, for the productive time lost.

Of course this invoice won’t ever be paid.. but I already feel better. Every time a software company hijacks my productive time, I will create a Virtual Invoice.  (I already have another one in the queue, for Microsoftcoming soon).

post

DocSyncer Dead. Too Bad.

Cliff Shaw is a serial SaaS entrepreneur who keeps on coming up with really useful services that just don’t make it as a business.

ProtectMyPhotos was my favorite photo backup and synchronization service. Unlike Flickr, Photobucket, Zooomr and just about all the photo site focusing on sharing your photos, this one did not require manual uploads. In fact the best feature was that after initial setup, you could completely forgot about it. Just like Mozy, the general-purpose online backup service, ProtectMyPhotos worked away in the background, non-intrusively, throttling back at times of heavier computer use. With added bells & whistles (online view & edit, sync between online and several offline versions..etc) it was a perfect service – for free, that is. Apparently it failed to attract enough paying customers, so eventually it shut down.

It did not completely die though: Cliff Shaw’s next startup, DocSyncer clearly showed signs of it’s “parent”: the UI was quite similar to ProtectMyPhotos, and they leveraged a lot from the core synchronization engine of the previous product. It looked like a perfectly executed turnaround: the existing technology found new purpose. DocSyncer filled a void left by the web-office providers: it synchronized desktop documents with Google Apps. I was quite certain they would have a short life-span, but this time with a happy ending, Google taking them out. Since the acquisition did not materialize, I can only assume either they could not come to terms or Google is already working on their own solution.

DocSyncer is about to shut down. Quote from the website:

We’ve figured out in a very short amount of time that DocSyncer is a cool tool – but not a business.

I really hate to see it go. No transition to web-based applications is complete unless we can bring our old baggage, i.e. transfer existing desktop documents to the online service. I see evidence of interest day by day, in the 100K or so hits my two “import your history to gmail” guides received. DocSyncer did better then import, it offered true synchronization, but I’d be quite satisfied just to see one-way batch import tools to Google Docs and Zoho, the two leading service providers.

The DocSyncer site says:

Until we meet again, good luck and thank you for the support!

“Meet again”: Cliff does not talk about his next gig yet, but his LinkedIn profile lists him as CEO of Picstreem. His profile also reveals four startup gigs in the past, two of which getting sold. He is a comeback guy, I am looking forward to seeing Picstreem.

In the meantime let’s hope that Google and Zoho will soon offer mass migration, perhaps synchronization.

Update (6/17/08): Wow, it’s amazing how many blogs picked up the story, all without a single bit of accreditation.  Thanks, gals and guys! smile_angry

Zemanta Pixie
post

Free Mini-Office from Microsoft?

There’s some renewed chatter about Microsoft’s plans for a subscription-based Office and even a free, ad-based alternative. Some rumors put the subscription price in the $12/ month range, which I believe is way too expensive for basic productivity tools, hence the need for another business model: offering MS Works for free, supported by advertising.

MS Works is nowadays widely considered a “dumbed down” version of its big brother, the real MS Office suite, but I beg to disagree.

Two decades ago MS Works was my main productivity suite: I was happily crunching numbers, generating charts, including them as well as data from my database in word-processing documents. In other words, I had a perfectly working and lightweight integrated office suite at the time when Word, Excel and Powerpoint were fragmented individual applications not talking to each other. For all its capabilities Works was very lightweight, I could use it on a laptop with 640K memory (that’s K, not MB!) and two 720k floppy drives – no hard-disk at all.

I can’t say this enough, Microsoft had a perfectly working integrated suite 20 years ago, which should have become what Office is today. But I guess you need bloatware to charge bloated prices, so Microsoft shoved Works aside, favoring the higher margin, high-end but fragmented products, which took years to become a true Office Suite.

The 80/20 rule applies for the MS Office Suite, in fact I’d rather say 90/10: 90% of users only need 10% of the functionality. MS Works has that – but now that it’s making a comeback (?), an ironic situation develops: the new online challengers like Google Docs and the Zoho Suite were targeting the mainstream Office Suite, and while in terms on features (needed or not) they are still behind Word, Excel..etc, the comparison to Works would quite possibly have a different outcome. I wouldn’t be surprised if Zoho Writer, Sheet and Show turned out to offer richer functionality than Works, and then we did not even look at the collaboration, mobility offered by the fact that they are Web-based.

Conclusion: MS Works should have been a winner 20 years ago, and ever since. Now it’s too little, too late.

post

Not All Presentation Managers Are Created Equal…

Sorry if this post feels a bit tongue-in-cheek. It is.  But I can’t help making the comparison when I see both Google and Zoho announcing new features of their Presentation Managers the same day.

We can’t stop adding features!  – announces the Google Docs Blog.  Today’s newbies are PDF support and adding vector shapes.  Some shapes.. the pic to the left shows the available inventory.

The pic below lists the shapes available in Zoho Show:

 

Add to the above hundreds of clipart items in Zoho Show, all of which, as well as the shapes can not only be moved and resized, like those in Google, but also flipped, rotated directly by dragging them.  And of course there’s Zoho’s theme gallery to jumpstart your presentation with… and a zillion more features.

Oh, well… draw your own conclusion.  Bias alert:smile_embaressed  I am an advisor to Zoho.  Don’t just take my word – go and play with Show yourself.

Related posts: Download Squad, Googlified , Google Operating System, Google Blogoscoped

post

Google Profiles – How About Fixing the Account Chaos First?

Google Profiles are coming:

A Google Profile is simply how you represent yourself on Google products — it lets you tell others a bit more about who you are and what you’re all about. You control what goes into your Google Profile, sharing as much (or as little) as you’d like.

A centralized identity management shared by the zillion Google services is a good idea – except the GOOG should have fixed the foundation first. Yes, there’s chaos around Google accounts, it’s been like that ever since Google Apps were introduced, and fixing it does not appear to be a high priority at all.

In the early days of Google Apps the only way to sign up was by linking to an existing Google Account, in the format of [email protected]. If you have one of those accounts, there is no way to tell Google that you are now [email protected]. This means that Google Apps think of your original @gmail and new, @domain identities and two different ones. You can directly access (via URL) your own Calendar, Docs, Groups ..etc. all under your own domain, however, programs that need to access those apps only find the other version, attached to your @gmail.com account. A simple example is trying to save an event from Upcoming.org, Zvents, or any other services: there’s no way to use them with your own domain.

Even the Google Groups is messed up: when I am logged in as [email protected], Groups that I am a member of won’t recognize me. I actually have to have duplicate identities created in Google Groups: one to be able to send email (my own domain) and one to be able to access Group’s other features via the browser (@gmail format).

I understand that for quite a while now yo don’t have to link Google Apps to a @gmail.com account, your Google Account can be your own domain itself. This is good news, since a lot less users are affected. It’s also bad news, for the very same reason: less users, less pressure to fix it, so the early Beta users are stuck… Of course we could always just create a new account (which does not have the chaos) and move on, but a domain is an investment, I can’t just throw it away. So for now: Google, you got my domain messed up, and any time you add new bells and whistles to Accounts, I will bring this up, until you fix it.

Update (1/20/08): I think it’s fixed now. 🙂

Related posts: Google Operating System, TechCrunch, Mashable! , Scobleizer, bub.blicio.us, Marc’s Voice, ParisLemon, Web Worker Daily, WebMetricsGuru, Brandon LeBlanc and Googlified

post

Where is Writely?

writely It’s funny how bloggers insist on calling Google’s new presentation app Presently. There’s no trace of using this name on any Google affiliated blogs. It wouldn’t be logical, after killing off the Writely brand.

But if Presently perseveres, could we see Writely back? And what does it mean for Google Spreadsheet? Calcly? How about when Google finally releases JotSpot? Jotly? Or would they pick the more toungue-in-cheek GSpot? 🙂

Links galore: Between the Lines, InsideGoogle, Guardian Unlimited, Insider Chatter, WebProNews, Search Engine Roundtable, Read/WriteWeb, Robin Good, Download Squad, Webware.com, Compiler, Search Engine Journal, Squash, michael parekh on IT, The Web Services Report, PaulStamatiou.com, ParisLemon.