Interesting post from the Zoho folk about their decision to cease design of their downloadable products.
While mostly known for their hosted applications, Zoho also offered their Virtual Office product and CRM products as downloadable software you could run on your own server. They’ve now canned both those offerings and they also revealed that the delay to their Zoho Mail product was due to the related issue of making the decision to optimise it as a web service.
I’d never really considered that you architect software intrinsically different if you are building it specifically to run as a hosted app. I kind of just figured that it was simply a matter of not wanting to administer the server. So that was a bit of an eye-opener in itself. But more interestin, perhaps, is the direction.
Recently I spoke on an MISaustralia.com podcast which also featured tlassian’s Mike Cannon-Brooks. He said that Atlassian they did have a hosted offering, most companies preferred to license the downloadable offering to install behind their own firewall. Experience with Wyaworks indicated much the same thing. When it comes to internal knowledge, most businesses still like the ability to run everything on their own server behind their own security systems rather than sticking everything in the cloud.
So it strikes me as a massive issue that Zoho has found developing its platforms as both a web service and a downloadable offering is simply not worth the effort, when its probably turning its back on the main revenue-generating business model. Is it really seeing that big a shift away from the software download? Or is there a more sophisticated business-model answer?
While I’m on Zoho they recently unveiled their new Start page. The lack of this kind of interface was one of the reasons I ended up switching to the Google App suite. There’s nothing earth shattering to the release but it’s definitely an important part of the suite puzzle. I found myself wondering if it was worth revisiting my decision and putting Zoho through its paces in again. Then I started to think about the pain of such a move and quickly realised I’m probably more locked in to Google Apps then I was ever locked into Microsoft’s Office suite because I can’t access my documents using any other application and shifting them all to another service would be a nightmare. Something to think about before you make the leap to relying on an online office suite like I have.
BTW, Zoho is doing a great job with its TechMeme sponsored posts. It’s a fabulous marketing vehicle when done right.