Universal, Actionable Search: Zoho’s Improved Answer to “Where’s My Stuff?”

zoho search Search, Don’t Organize

– is the Google mantra, meaning we should stop wasting time filing away information in folders, sorting, labeling it for later retrieval, when it’s so much easier to search / find it.

That is, if you know where to search. Did you discuss that project in email?  Or was it a Document?  A Presentation?  A Spreadsheet?  A Wiki?  Was there a meeting on it that’s in your Calendar?

We’ve finally resolved the issue of universal search on the desktop, but not on the Web.  Google’s productivity tools all have their own search facilities (I love Gmail search) but you have to execute search on an app by app basis.  Even my Android-phone fares better, where I can search within a particular app or all my data.

Surprisingly, Zoho came out with Universal Search before the King of Search (although it would be naive to believe Google won’t catch up…)   The Universal, Actionable Search solution announced today is just that:

  • Universal: working across several Zoho applications, e.g. Mail, Docs, Writer, Sheet, Show, Notebook, Discussions, Accounts
  • Actionable: depending on the context you can edit a document, respond to / forward an email, IM a contact..etc on a single click, right from the search results, without having to launch the individual application.

A nice step towards contextual integration we’ve just discussed recently.

For now Search is either accessible via or by using the search box in Zoho Business – eventually all Zoho Apps will get the Universal Search box.  (I have no information on how it will be implemented, but once again, context comes first: I’d expect the default to be within the specific app, other apps or “all” selectable, whereas in Business, which is Zoho’s  business portal the “all” setting is more logical)

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(Disclosure:  Zoho is CloudAve’s exclusive Sponsor)

(Cross-posted @ CloudAve)


Micro-chunking Software: Tibco and Zoho CEOs Sing the Same Song (Just from Different Notes)

puzzle This should probably be a Tweet, but I am not smart enough to squeeze it into 140 characters – perhaps Tumblr or Posterous notes?  Anyway, I am in a rambling mood – but I’ll keep it short, just pointing to stuff I read.  After all, there’s a reason why my personal blog has the tagline Connecting the dots. 🙂

The death knell is ringing for Customer Relationship Management (CRM) packages, according to Vivek Ranadivé, Tibco’s chairman and CEO.

“The enterprise 2.0 world we live in today is transaction based, but we are now entering an era where events will replace transactions. We will move from this world where we continually have to ask questions and seek information into one where the information will seek you.”

The technical enabler is the reduction of costs for solid-state memory and the arrival of larger multi-core processors – the result is software that reacts  to what we’re doing at any moment in time, instead of us pulling up big monolithic applications.

The other “dot” I’m connecting this to is a blog post by Zoho CEO Sridhar Vembu:

One of the architectural themes that is driving our evolution is the focus on the user’s context and workflow and avoiding the context switch as much as possible. Context switching is expensive. It destroys the flow and rhythm of a users, and is a real productivity killer,  as I discussed with Larry Dignan of ZDNet last week…

…the boundary between apps tends to dissolve, as data flows contextually across apps. Apps move to the background, data and context start to dominate. In the cloud world, data is not the slave of any particular application, but flows to whichever context that needs it.

My take: CRM?  I don’t even know what it means anymore… just ask Paul Greenberg about the ever expanding definition of Social CRM. It’s certainly not just one application.  Same for ERP.  Or Office, for that matter.

Applications will go away.  Instead, we’ll have functions.  Functions that sense what we are doing and offer up the right options – based on both data and perhaps our own activity profile (example: looking at a table – some might process it with a spreadsheet, others prefer a database or word processor).  Or just self-acting agents.  Micro-chunked functions served up software. I first discussed the concept two years ago.

Now, isn’t this in sharp contrast to what I said about Application Suites?  No: first of all, that was a market-reality based view vs. visioning here. Second, it’s Suites are not necessarily monolithic giants, it’s about the integration of apps, bringing the right micro-functions available to the user at the right time in the right context, no matter what the “App” is called, and doing it all in a unified UI environment.  Read more on the componentization of software here.

Wow.  This is definitely not Twitter-sized. 🙂

(Disclosure: Zoho is CloudAve’s exclusive Sponsor)

(Cross-posted @ CloudAve)


US Air Force Forced to Play – by Sony

HTC Incredible My new HTC Incredible phone has a 1Ghz Snapdragon processor in it.  That’s faster than laptop computers were just a few years ago.  That, and reading the US Air Force story (you have to wait for that a little longer…) reminded me of an interesting conversation with Zoho CEO Sridhar Vembu two years ago:

Given how mobile phones pack a whole lot of functionality in a tiny package, I have wondered if the ideal server farm is just tens of thousands of mobile phones packed together. It seems to me that the semiconductor technology behind mobile devices is far, far more power efficient than the stuff that goes in servers. Partly it is a backwards compatibility issue, with servers having to run code written all the way back to 1980s, while mobile phones simply didn’t exist that far back. Partly, it is also a function of how traditional client-server applications were architectural monoliths, compared to the deeply distributed “service-oriented architecture” that is common in web applications today.

With mobile phones approaching very respectable CPU & memory capacity, packaging them together as a server cluster makes a lot of sense. Linux can run on almost all of the modern CPUs common in cell-phones, and the mobile version of Java seems actually well-suited for server use, particularly for deeply partitioned, distributed applications. Lightweightness is actually an advantage in server software, just as it is in mobile software.

While I don’t know if anyone has implemented the idea, there are other experiments with using cheap but powerful hardware in non-traditional ways – most notably the US Air Force which concluded that Sony PS3 consoles running Linux provide powerful and dirt cheap computing power.


The above cluster contains 1,700 160GB PS3 units, and is a great example of cheap computing – except for a small glitch.  A few month later Sony issued a firmware update that kills the ability to install Linux on the PS3.  This won’t immediately turn the cluster into dumb game consoles, since the Air Force is not hooked into Sony’s network.  Isolated from further patches the machines can still work as Linux computers – but swapping them out and repairs become increasingly difficult. Unless Sony reverses the decision (which is not out of question, given there are several lawsuits on the matter), the Air Force eventually ends up with a bunch of Game Consoles.

Which is not the end of the world – there’s an abundance of Flight Simulators for the PS3 🙂

flight silmulator

(Full story @ Ars Technica)

(Cross-posted @ CloudAve)


Now Tell the Difference Between Folders and Labels

If you really think about it, there’s not much of a difference.  They are more or less the same.

Folders are a very old metaphor, as old as email and documents are.  Early email systems physically kept folders in separate files, and even when they were no longer separate files, basic functions like sort, search were limited within individual folders.  We got boxed in to physical folders.

The big break away from this, introduced by Gmail’s label concept was flat storage of email with only logical labels – but because labels were no longer physical containers, you could assign any item (email) to multiple folders.

The more traditional “folder-camp” was missing some of the good old attributes: drag-and-drop, nested folders (aka hierarchies)..etc – and lo and behold, little by little they all go it, the final step being the release of nested Gmail folders today.  Now tell me the difference between Folders and Labels.   They are one and the same, Labels are just more flexible Folders.

Actually, and to take this a few steps further, I’ve said before:

All folders are labels, but not all labels are folders.

But of course it’s all semantics … and I don’t want to quote my posts from a year ago … I suggest you read it (yes, shameless self-promo) because in the original post I laid out quite a few concepts for the improvement of folders / labels / tags .. whatever we call them.

I’m glad to see some of those concepts have become reality….

(P.S. Zoho – exclusive sponsors of CloudAve-  have been offering both folders and labels for a while in their Mail service, albeit kept separately.)

(Cross-posted @ CloudAve )


Google Launches Apps Marketplace

I’m at the Google Campfire One event where they’ve just announced the Google Apps Marketplace.  The site is live now, feel free to browse.  The speculation is now over, this is Google’s answer on whether they will enter the Business Applications market – they just did, with an entire ecosystem of Partners.

The new Marketplace fills an obvious need: Google Apps has 25 million users at over 2 million businesses who clearly need more than just the communication / collaboration / Office type applications Google can offer today.  Here’s a chart of some of the initial Marketplace participants:

Launch cos

As you can see, the list represents a wide range of partners – some are very obvious fit, others bring questions re. future business model. Just picking a few randomly, I can easily see how electronic signature management vendor Echosign, the obviously named eFax or meeting scheduler Timebridge expands Google Apps functionality, and they are all easy to use applications.  Spanning Backup is a brand new product just launched days ago, but they’ve established credibility with the previous product, Spanning Sync.

At the other end of the scale we have fairly complex offerings represented by NetSuite and Successfactors.  For SMB SaaS ERP and HRM (yup, lots of acronyms)  offerings integrating Web based office apps or email is a natural fit, but these companies have a very different sales and implementation model: far from the simple test-buy-click-to-install model they have a longer, more traditional sales cycle, a few weeks of implementation work, training..etc.  It will be interesting to see how their presence at the Marketplace plays out, and which side generates more deals for the otherl.

Then there’s Zoho (dislosure: Zoho is sponsoring CloudAve, my main blogging gig).  On one hand, clearly competing with Google, on the other hand, partnering where reasonable.  My personal opinion has been for a while that Google should have acquired Zoho long ago, offering a killer combo of Gmail+ GCal and the Zoho Business Apps to the SMB space.  Obviously neither Google nor Zoho thought it was their best interest (and not mine, either, why would I want to lose our Sponsor…), but they finally met at the Marketplace:-)  Kudos to Google for playing fair with co-opetitors in the interest of their Customers, unlike that other company that booted Zoho from their Appexchange when they did not agree to kill Zoho CRM…  CRM is now Zoho’s best selling product, and Google Apps users will now have easy access to it, as well as to Zoho Projects. Zoho Meeting will soon be integrated, too.

googzohoTalk about integration, Google published extensive API’s for integration of 3rd party programs to Apps, the Marketplace allows easy discovery of such apps and there’s also a commercial model, eventually offering billing on the software vendors’ behalf, for a 20% cut.   For now the actual purchase transaction takes place outside Google, but once it’s completed, Administrators of a Google Apps domain can simply enable the new apps which will be accessible via Google’s Universal Navigation.

Other then for the obvious reasons – users / customers having more choice, I am happy about this launch because I think if any company, Google has the clout to actually expand the market, and in a way influence user behavior, moving us all, consumers and business alike from the traditional sales-heavy model to a pull-model, where we try-click-to buy.  I wrote about this ‘shift’ in detail in the previous post .

Stay tuned for more analysis from Ben who will look at the details as well as competing Apps Markets, and from Krish who will look at some individual offerings.

(Cross-posted @ CloudAve )


Fun Video from


Work. Online. (Zoho Employees On the Loose)

(Cross-posted @ CloudAve )


SAP and Zoho Come Together

At least on screen… Zoho CEO Sridhar Vembu delivers his keynote @ NASSCOM, and what’s the background?  SAP Business ByDesign.


Business ByDesign: probably the best All-in-One SaaS suite NOT (quite) on the market today. smile_omg


The Vista Movie

OK, I admit.  The title over-promises, the post under-delivers.  This won’t be an exciting thriller. In fact it’s outright boring.  Like watching paint dry.  But that’s exactly the point, Vista took a good minute to delete a single file ( I got bored after 18 seconds and stopped recording).

Must be a giant file…. NOT.  It’s not 1.1GB, not 1.1MB, it is 1.1KB.

Of course some would say it’s just a perception… and they are probably right.  Ransom paid, and I’m sure by the end of the year this whole 3-year nightmare with Vista will appear just that… a nightmare.  Never happened.

(Cross-posted @ CloudAve )


ToonDooSpaces: Comics-based Social Network for School Kids

Zoho is mostly known for their Web-based productivity and business software, but sometimes they venture into … hmm… unproductivity.   In the past year or so close to a million cartoons were created @ ToonDoo, and that number grows by 3-4 thousand every day.  (Hey, even I contributed onesmile_wink)

Today they have announced  ToonDooSpaces, private comics-based collaborative space for classrooms, be it school or kindergarten level.  (Remember when FaceBook – actually TheFacebook at the time – was strictly limit to the confines of actual colleges?)   What can you do @ ToonDooSpaces?  Here’s how the kids at one of the pilot schools explain:


Even before this launch, ToonDoo has been used at hundreds of schools including Auburn High School, US, Totino-Grace High School, US, Leawood Middle School, US, Korea International School, Korea, Mount Scopus Memorial College, Australia, Lake Superior College, US and many others -  apparently all the way to college level.  That said I think ToonDooSpaces will be most favored by the younger ones.  Here’s a detailed review by Kevin Hodgson who has been using ToonDooSpaces in his class for months:

All spring, my sixth graders (11 and 12 year olds) were fully engaged in the use of our ToonDoo Spaces site. They would walk in the door and immediately ask: Are we going to make comics today, Mr. H? And they give a little shout of “Yeah!” with a fist pump when I say “yes” (after we do whatever other work we have planned).

Here’s an interactive video showing off more of ToonDoo’s features:


But hey, I’m writing a business / technology blog, so let’s get serious here. smile_wink   I often talk about Freemium (more here), and I think this is a perfect showcase.


Remember, Freemium takes patience – in this case ToonDoo has been available for over a year, attracting hundreds of thousands of users before the launch of the “premium” version, Spaces.

And here’s something else: I guess the inner child must have died in me a long time ago, how else do I have the most fun on the Pricing Page?  The fact is, we often talk about the need for transparency, and how SaaS should be easy not only to learn, use, but to buy, which includes price information, without having to endure lousy sales calls.  Well, it doesn’t get any easier:


Move the cursor along the users / months axis, click anywhere, and voila! – there’s your price quote.   SaaS companies, take notice: you can get rid of the kiddie appearance, but should offer a pricing tool this easy.

Now I am off to create a cartoon(doo). smile_shades

(Disclaimer:  I am Editor of CloudAve, a Zoho-sponsored group blog.)