09 April, 2008

Zoho: taking on the Goliaths

While Microsoft tries hard to acquire Yahoo in the hope of strengthening itself against Google, a small Indian/Californian based newcomer: Zoho - a division of AdvantNet, a designer of online software tools - has come up with several very interesting, useful Web based products; so far, these include: a Web based e-mail service, a word processor, a spreadsheet, a presentation tool, a Wiki, a project manager, a customer-relationship management (CRM) tool, a database, a project-planning tool and sevral others. All, sleek, neat and let you do almost anything online that you can do on a desktop computer—from creating documents to building a spreadsheet to managing a database, plus conferencing, project-management, chatting, and a dozen other functions.

While Microsoft is still the preferred one for office applications and Google its main contender and seems the most likely to take over, the innovative Zoho has quietly been releasing at least one new product every month for more than a year now: almost 20 products so far. Most are excellent. The best of the Zoho products that I regularly use to help with my work wherever I am (especially at home), so far, are: Zoho Mail, the highly acclaimed Zoho Notebook (which is like a binder for assembling material in many formats, both from other parts of Zoho and from the Web at large. You can pick up Sheet spreadsheets, Writer documents, Show presentations, RSS feeds, video, audio and plain old images and text, and scrapbook), Zoho Writer and Zoho Sheet.

All are online based, most are for free (for now) and as all the products are Web based, there's no need installing softwares; you are able to work anywhere that there's a Web browser and an Internet connection. And all are very easy to use, publish and share with selected people. The biggest advantage Zoho has, is collaboration: multiple users can be aggregated into a Group, and interact closely by sharing information (mail, documents, messages, etc.) and duties and tasks can easily be assigned. The biggest limitation Zoho has, is that you have to be connected to the Web to use it - though some of the products, like 'Writer', 'Sheet' and 'Show' have desktop versions which can be installed; and the connection has to be real good for Zoho to work efficiently. Overall, I have found the Zoho products I use - inspiring, convenient, very useful and helpful; and most are better than those from its giant contenders - Microsoft and Google.