Zoho: the office disrupters

Zoho. Never heard of it? You will. They were just named to PC World’s top 100 products of 2007 list and on Tuesday they released Zoho Notebook, an app that lets you take notes, record audio, and interact with people during meetings. Anyway, I just put up an interview with the CEO.

UPDATE: here’s a separate video where I get a demo of Zoho Notebook.

[podtech content=http://media1.podtech.net/media/2007/05/PID_011420/Podtech_ZoHo_interview.flv&postURL=http://www.podtech.net/scobleshow/technology/1507/zoho-disruptor-of-microsoft-office&totalTime=2149000&breadcrumb=be0a17531e5447e886c777dc5a8e36a8]

57 thoughts on “Zoho: the office disrupters

  1. “Zoho. Never heard of it? You will”

    No. No I won’t. It sounds like every other Web 2.0 app with a geeky name.

    Okay. Google is a nerdy name. That should have been the end of the nerdy brand names.

    Zoooomr? Are you fuckin kidding me?

    I just imagine Scoble getting a wedgie every time he tries to pimp one of these new sites..

  2. The thing I like about Zoho, is that it is another way of doing stuff. I own and use a lot of Microsoft software, it is the primary business software. However, I also use a lot of the Web 2.0 stuff, Remember the Milk for one thing.
    We can debate the pros and cons all day, everybody has their own wants and needs. Free online software takes care of some of my needs. If you can get stuff for free and the trade off is that you have to be connected, it makes it easy for those that need it.

    Guy

  3. The thing I like about Zoho, is that it is another way of doing stuff. I own and use a lot of Microsoft software, it is the primary business software. However, I also use a lot of the Web 2.0 stuff, Remember the Milk for one thing.
    We can debate the pros and cons all day, everybody has their own wants and needs. Free online software takes care of some of my needs. If you can get stuff for free and the trade off is that you have to be connected, it makes it easy for those that need it.

    Guy

  4. Even their login screen looks like a Google ripoff. They need to get their own design. Nice set of online aps though nothing revolutionary.

  5. Even their login screen looks like a Google ripoff. They need to get their own design. Nice set of online aps though nothing revolutionary.

  6. I am seeing the disruptive myself. When you think things are going to stay as they are, then Microsoft desktop apps win. When you start to buy into the mobile always connected concepts described in Communities Dominate Brands, then you see that there is a great big untapped upside that Zoho is tapping into. They are having a ton of fun. And something is working. Now you are not always connected, but in a University environment, people have lots of wi-fi plus 3G cellular like Verizon is right there. If you were in Korea, Japan or Finland right now where you do have 24/7 connectedness, you would be thinking differently.

  7. I am seeing the disruptive myself. When you think things are going to stay as they are, then Microsoft desktop apps win. When you start to buy into the mobile always connected concepts described in Communities Dominate Brands, then you see that there is a great big untapped upside that Zoho is tapping into. They are having a ton of fun. And something is working. Now you are not always connected, but in a University environment, people have lots of wi-fi plus 3G cellular like Verizon is right there. If you were in Korea, Japan or Finland right now where you do have 24/7 connectedness, you would be thinking differently.

  8. @10 “I don’t remember Microsoft updating their Office apps except for every two or three years.”

    Why is that an argument? Normal people don’t buy software based on which one has the most features. They buy software because it solves a problem. Thus why there is still a lot of Office97 out there. It does what people want it to do. So, the fact that Zoho can continually lengthen their check list and make their little toys more complicated to use won’t matter. Unless is does something that businesses really want, not gonna disrupt. I think most people use Office at home because they us it at work. So…I don’t see Zoho being that alternative. Not saying it’s not a cool little toy that does a neat immitation of OneNote. And not saying there aren’t enough anti-corporate, ant-capitalism, anti-Microsoft people out there to keep them interesting. But disruptive? Nope.

  9. @10 “I don’t remember Microsoft updating their Office apps except for every two or three years.”

    Why is that an argument? Normal people don’t buy software based on which one has the most features. They buy software because it solves a problem. Thus why there is still a lot of Office97 out there. It does what people want it to do. So, the fact that Zoho can continually lengthen their check list and make their little toys more complicated to use won’t matter. Unless is does something that businesses really want, not gonna disrupt. I think most people use Office at home because they us it at work. So…I don’t see Zoho being that alternative. Not saying it’s not a cool little toy that does a neat immitation of OneNote. And not saying there aren’t enough anti-corporate, ant-capitalism, anti-Microsoft people out there to keep them interesting. But disruptive? Nope.

  10. @8. My point is, Zoho will unlikely ever be all that disruptive, at least in the business space. What are their plans for compatibility? What are their support plans? What are their support for SOX plans? Sure, these things are nice toys for those that only need basic doc creation and don’t want to pay for anything. There’s a market for everything. But to say it will be disruptive? Hardly.

    And how long can they survive on being “free”? What is their revenue model? Like they say..you get what you pay for.

  11. @8. My point is, Zoho will unlikely ever be all that disruptive, at least in the business space. What are their plans for compatibility? What are their support plans? What are their support for SOX plans? Sure, these things are nice toys for those that only need basic doc creation and don’t want to pay for anything. There’s a market for everything. But to say it will be disruptive? Hardly.

    And how long can they survive on being “free”? What is their revenue model? Like they say..you get what you pay for.

  12. Oh I looked at the “tick list” and the videos awhile ago, found myself in favor of OneNote, does more, better Ink handling, better Object and OCR handling, and such.

    Zoho’s a fine idea, but recreating a consumer-hardened Microsoft app via SaaS, is not yet ready for prime time, besides I tote my Tablet around all over and don’t always have network access (not Verizon-carding it all the time). Zoho is more a Google Notebook competitor, besting that easy, but even at that the Zoho functionality and usage factors are way low (for my needs). Zoho DOES excel in multimedia inclusion, OneNote is pretty static in terms of video and codec implementations, being coded before the “YouTube” revolution.

    If Zoho would abandon the whole pure SaaS religion and get a little Ink religion, then it might be a nice, secondary app of sorts. But it’s going really need some breakout features, as you will have to better by order of a magnitude to even get people to look. But it bears watching…

    If Microsoft would just kick up really Office 2007 SaaS dust or go Groovey End-User, they’d smoke all these edgey start-uppy and Google junky apps. So really more a failure on Microsoft’s part in getting their collective act together…

  13. Oh I looked at the “tick list” and the videos awhile ago, found myself in favor of OneNote, does more, better Ink handling, better Object and OCR handling, and such.

    Zoho’s a fine idea, but recreating a consumer-hardened Microsoft app via SaaS, is not yet ready for prime time, besides I tote my Tablet around all over and don’t always have network access (not Verizon-carding it all the time). Zoho is more a Google Notebook competitor, besting that easy, but even at that the Zoho functionality and usage factors are way low (for my needs). Zoho DOES excel in multimedia inclusion, OneNote is pretty static in terms of video and codec implementations, being coded before the “YouTube” revolution.

    If Zoho would abandon the whole pure SaaS religion and get a little Ink religion, then it might be a nice, secondary app of sorts. But it’s going really need some breakout features, as you will have to better by order of a magnitude to even get people to look. But it bears watching…

    If Microsoft would just kick up really Office 2007 SaaS dust or go Groovey End-User, they’d smoke all these edgey start-uppy and Google junky apps. So really more a failure on Microsoft’s part in getting their collective act together…

  14. And Robert – it’s easy to update your apps when your user base is small – when you don’t have to worry about multiple cultures, languages, RTL, LTR representation, etc.

  15. And Robert – it’s easy to update your apps when your user base is small – when you don’t have to worry about multiple cultures, languages, RTL, LTR representation, etc.

  16. One of the problems with all these technologies is that it’s all or nothing.

    For this stuff to actually work in the mainstream then we need something that uses a pluggable architecture.

    You should be able to buy your IM/VoIP from Google, notebook from Zoho, Office application from MS – and your storage from Amazon (or run it yourself). Isn’t that the difference between web services and SaaS?

  17. One of the problems with all these technologies is that it’s all or nothing.

    For this stuff to actually work in the mainstream then we need something that uses a pluggable architecture.

    You should be able to buy your IM/VoIP from Google, notebook from Zoho, Office application from MS – and your storage from Amazon (or run it yourself). Isn’t that the difference between web services and SaaS?

  18. Thomas: yup, that’s the downside of Web services. Until we get offline applications done in Silverlight or Apollo or something that’ll be the tradeoff.

  19. Thomas: yup, that’s the downside of Web services. Until we get offline applications done in Silverlight or Apollo or something that’ll be the tradeoff.

  20. Robert – you are correct all users accessing the content need to have OneNote installed, and a server of some kind is required.

    There is the ability to email someone a copy of OneNote notes in different formats, but this becomes a static standalone copy, and collaboration is lost.

    OneNote does have synchronization so if changes are made without access to the server, the copies will be merged/synched when access to the server is restored.

    To play devil’s advocate against Zoho, you do need access to the Internet to access the application. Although the Internet is most everywhere, there are still some places it is unavailable – then what?

  21. Robert – you are correct all users accessing the content need to have OneNote installed, and a server of some kind is required.

    There is the ability to email someone a copy of OneNote notes in different formats, but this becomes a static standalone copy, and collaboration is lost.

    OneNote does have synchronization so if changes are made without access to the server, the copies will be merged/synched when access to the server is restored.

    To play devil’s advocate against Zoho, you do need access to the Internet to access the application. Although the Internet is most everywhere, there are still some places it is unavailable – then what?

  22. Thomas: yeah, but OneNote requires OneNote to be on both sides of the conversation and requires a server to be setup in between, right? It certainly isn’t built into the core product the way Zoho’s stuff is and it certainly doesn’t work from any computer that just has a Web browser the way Zoho’s does.

  23. Thomas: yeah, but OneNote requires OneNote to be on both sides of the conversation and requires a server to be setup in between, right? It certainly isn’t built into the core product the way Zoho’s stuff is and it certainly doesn’t work from any computer that just has a Web browser the way Zoho’s does.

  24. Robert – OneNote 2007 does you let you collaborate. I wrote a post conparing how to share content using .
    Google Notebook, OneNote, and Zoho Notebook.

    @Dennis – Like I said I think the competition is great, and I do like the Zoho Notebook product, and I think they have come up with some good features and good products.

    One feature Zoho Notebook has I haven’t seen on other products – the ability to set permissions on what users can do with your shared notes – Read or Read/Write, and the ability to be granular with what you are sharing – Book, Page or Object.

  25. Robert – OneNote 2007 does you let you collaborate. I wrote a post conparing how to share content using .
    Google Notebook, OneNote, and Zoho Notebook.

    @Dennis – Like I said I think the competition is great, and I do like the Zoho Notebook product, and I think they have come up with some good features and good products.

    One feature Zoho Notebook has I haven’t seen on other products – the ability to set permissions on what users can do with your shared notes – Read or Read/Write, and the ability to be granular with what you are sharing – Book, Page or Object.

  26. Zoho’s stuff isn’t going to put Microsoft out of business. But, their price is hard to argue with. Their deployment? Hard to argue with. Collaboration? I don’t remember seeing OneNote letting me collaborate with my coworkers the way Notebook does. New feature delivery? I don’t remember Microsoft updating their Office apps except for every two or three years.

    That’s why I say Zoho is disruptive (and they are hardly the only ones playing the Office 2.0/Work 2.0/Enterprise 2.0 game). How disruptive? I don’t yet know.

  27. Zoho’s stuff isn’t going to put Microsoft out of business. But, their price is hard to argue with. Their deployment? Hard to argue with. Collaboration? I don’t remember seeing OneNote letting me collaborate with my coworkers the way Notebook does. New feature delivery? I don’t remember Microsoft updating their Office apps except for every two or three years.

    That’s why I say Zoho is disruptive (and they are hardly the only ones playing the Office 2.0/Work 2.0/Enterprise 2.0 game). How disruptive? I don’t yet know.

  28. I’m a little confused – software taxation? You mean SaaS – subscription based software?
    Generally I’m against it – end users end up paying more for it. By making them pay more for it – who are the people that actually suffer? The poor.

    I’ve not yet seen a study that shows SaaS from the perspective of the end user – only from how big the market is, or how much companies can make from it.

    I’ve used ZoHo’s software and I like it – better than the tool I am currently using? No.

    You said, “It is much better than One Note – go read the tick list stuff.” – I was just stating that I don’t think it is.

    Are they a little guy?
    “They were just named to PC World’s top 100 products of 2007 list” – I wouldn’t say that’s a good indicator that they are.

    M$ isn’t going there? You should check again – you can already buy many MS products (servers, desktops, office) on a monthly basis.

    FYI: I’m all for them – I applaud their product line and I like their approach.

  29. I’m a little confused – software taxation? You mean SaaS – subscription based software?
    Generally I’m against it – end users end up paying more for it. By making them pay more for it – who are the people that actually suffer? The poor.

    I’ve not yet seen a study that shows SaaS from the perspective of the end user – only from how big the market is, or how much companies can make from it.

    I’ve used ZoHo’s software and I like it – better than the tool I am currently using? No.

    You said, “It is much better than One Note – go read the tick list stuff.” – I was just stating that I don’t think it is.

    Are they a little guy?
    “They were just named to PC World’s top 100 products of 2007 list” – I wouldn’t say that’s a good indicator that they are.

    M$ isn’t going there? You should check again – you can already buy many MS products (servers, desktops, office) on a monthly basis.

    FYI: I’m all for them – I applaud their product line and I like their approach.

  30. @LayZ
    @Dasher
    @Thomas

    I fight for the little guy – I don’t believe in the winner takes all argument that pervades Valley thinking but above all I believe the world will move to a different model of software taxation. M$ isn’t going there…yet.

    There’s plenty to criticise Zoho on and you can pull the feature/function card all day long. My only question: Does it meet my need at a price I am prepared to pay? Companies like Zoho are challenging the norms.

    And good on Scoble for using his foghorn to get this kond of company to a wider audience.

  31. @LayZ
    @Dasher
    @Thomas

    I fight for the little guy – I don’t believe in the winner takes all argument that pervades Valley thinking but above all I believe the world will move to a different model of software taxation. M$ isn’t going there…yet.

    There’s plenty to criticise Zoho on and you can pull the feature/function card all day long. My only question: Does it meet my need at a price I am prepared to pay? Companies like Zoho are challenging the norms.

    And good on Scoble for using his foghorn to get this kond of company to a wider audience.

  32. Dennis – I don’t know if I would say better, there is a lot of functionality that OneNote includes, that Zoho Notebook doesn’t include at this time.

    I do think Notebook is pretty cool application, and I definitely welcome the competition for OneNote.

    To follow up with Dasher’s post – in OneNote any text in images is recognized using OCR and returned in searches.

    One question I have is how do you access your Zoho Notebook when you don’t have Internet connectivity?

  33. Dennis – I don’t know if I would say better, there is a lot of functionality that OneNote includes, that Zoho Notebook doesn’t include at this time.

    I do think Notebook is pretty cool application, and I definitely welcome the competition for OneNote.

    To follow up with Dasher’s post – in OneNote any text in images is recognized using OCR and returned in searches.

    One question I have is how do you access your Zoho Notebook when you don’t have Internet connectivity?

  34. In the past I’ve looked at building a notebook device that with the following characteristics:
    1) Size of an A4 pad, 1cm thick
    2) All screen, thin border
    3) Stylus, microphone, speaker, wifi
    4) Battery life of 5 days (4-6 hours usage a day)
    5) Solid state memory – around 1GB
    5) Costs 1-200 USD

    Sole purpose: using, writing, sharing notes using note tools like OneNote/zoho.

    The only problem is the barrier to entry (start-up) costs are too high. There’s a large market for this kind of thing – no need to drag a laptop around.

    Tablet PC’s try to do too much – and as such have a large overhead in terms of weight, complexity & cost.

    Handheld machines are ok – but a) try to do too much, b) too small to be considered as a replacement for a standard A4 (paper) notebook.

    Dennis: OneNote has been doing everything listed by notebook (http://notebook.zoho.com) for ages. In addition OneNote can include data from voice & images as part of search results. If the search term is spoken in a voice clip then OneNote will return the voice clip in the search results.

  35. In the past I’ve looked at building a notebook device that with the following characteristics:
    1) Size of an A4 pad, 1cm thick
    2) All screen, thin border
    3) Stylus, microphone, speaker, wifi
    4) Battery life of 5 days (4-6 hours usage a day)
    5) Solid state memory – around 1GB
    5) Costs 1-200 USD

    Sole purpose: using, writing, sharing notes using note tools like OneNote/zoho.

    The only problem is the barrier to entry (start-up) costs are too high. There’s a large market for this kind of thing – no need to drag a laptop around.

    Tablet PC’s try to do too much – and as such have a large overhead in terms of weight, complexity & cost.

    Handheld machines are ok – but a) try to do too much, b) too small to be considered as a replacement for a standard A4 (paper) notebook.

    Dennis: OneNote has been doing everything listed by notebook (http://notebook.zoho.com) for ages. In addition OneNote can include data from voice & images as part of search results. If the search term is spoken in a voice clip then OneNote will return the voice clip in the search results.

  36. Uh…unlikely anyone of any consequence will ever hear of it, let alone adopt it for real world use. Because…Survey says!!!:
    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/04/20/desktop_office_suites/

    Here’s the money quote: “The other big news from this chart is that online alternatives to desktop office suites delivered via the “software as a service” (SaaS) model are really nowhere at the moment in terms of penetration, at least for business use….”

  37. Uh…unlikely anyone of any consequence will ever hear of it, let alone adopt it for real world use. Because…Survey says!!!:
    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/04/20/desktop_office_suites/

    Here’s the money quote: “The other big news from this chart is that online alternatives to desktop office suites delivered via the “software as a service” (SaaS) model are really nowhere at the moment in terms of penetration, at least for business use….”

  38. take notes, record audio, and interact with people

    I believe that’s called Microsoft OneNote and a darned fine app, I must say…

  39. take notes, record audio, and interact with people

    I believe that’s called Microsoft OneNote and a darned fine app, I must say…

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