Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Day 20: Google vs. Zoho, Part 2

In the first part of this comparison, I hit the major pieces of the groupware suite -- e-mail, calendar, word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation software. I'll be covering some of the less-used applications next.


Google's Chat

Zoho's Chat

Both suites claim to offer IM in the e-mail windows. GTalk offers text, voice, and video (not available on Linux). I have zero on-line contacts, though, so I can't test Zoho. GTalk can chat with anyone with a GMail account, on a Jabber server, or on AOL. Zoho, on the other hand, only chats with Zoho, which is fine for business, but doesn't help me much. Zoho doesn't offer voice video in chat, but it has a separate meeting application for that.

Task management

 Zoho Gantt Chart

As I mentioned in a previous post, Google doesn't really have task management, which is a killer for some people, though a workaround can be made using GMail or hooking up to Remember the Milk. Zoho's tasks application allows defining priority, due date, status, and the other usual fields, but it also offers assigning tasks to others. This emphasizes the fact that Zoho is business oriented while Google Apps is mostly for personal use.


Zoho Notebook
Google Notebook
Both suites offer notebooks that can clip information from various websites and from within the suites. Zoho offers a publication option once the whole thing has been organized. I don't really see why I'd use that instead of the wiki application, though.


Google Sites Wiki

Zoho Wiki

Google is phasing out the cripple Pages and betting the farm on Sites. Sites is really nice and offers a lot of fuctionality with an easy-to-use interface. Pages can be of different types emulating a download page or even a blog. Both offer WYSIWYG editors, but Sites is more of a total website solution, while Zoho Wiki limits itself to traditional wiki-like functions.


Zoho Meeting

Zoho has a version of Meetings for the free version, but it is limited to one other participant (the website says one participant, but I'm going to assume it means two). More than that will cost a monthly fee. The meeting software offers all the normal collaboration solution options like chat, voice, video, and desktop sharing (Windows only), but it also offers the participants the opportunity to share their desktops and has a browser plug-in to make everything easy. The browser plug-in seems perfect for support desks.

Google, on the other hand, doesn't offer a dedicated meeting application. The chat module can do group chat, voice and video, but can't share the desktop.

Shared Links

Both Google Bookmarks and Zoho Links offer bookmarking functionality with the option of sharing, but Bookmarks can be integrated into the browser using Google Toolbar. This makes the application much more useful.

Start Page

Zoho Desktop


Zoho operates in a single interface, so it's alread somewhat of a start page itself, but it has a module called "Desktop," which gives a quick overview of meetings, tasks, documents, and the like. Google is promoting iGoogle, which is much more customizable but which also seems to lack the professionalism of Desktop.

Unique Features

Google offers a lot more options for the average user than Zoho does. Picasa organizes photos. Youtube and Google Video allow you to upload videos. Maps can be customized. It also has a very limited database-type fuction using forms for spreadsheets. Google's offering is still very much separate applications, though. Work groups appear to do their own thing without a standard style guideline. Each Google app has a different interface, even among the typical office applications, which you would think ....

Zoho is an integrated application, though.  Zoho's single interface makes everything really simple to get at and the emphasis on looking like desktop counterparts really helps adjustment. Zoho may be missing a couple of the things Google offers, but this is not actually that big of an issue because Zoho's interface allows you to embed outside applications like Picasa, Maps or Reader. Zoho professional also has an application maker to let you fill in the gaps with custom applications for your business and a database application similar to Access.

Browser Integration

Google wins hands down on the browser integration situation, which moderates its broken app intergration. Google Toolbar brings most of the applications together, and the Docs sidebar add-on allows easy access to most of your stuff.

Zoho doesn't have much in this area, really, but it doesn't really need it outside of bookmarking. I would be happy using Zoho in Prism (immitatiing a local application). You would never catch me doing that with Google. I'd need a full Firefox. The biggest downside of Zoho that I see for personal use is that my collaborators need to use an address. Google allows any address to register and use its apps.


Google is obviously aiming for personal use. It wants to use the network effect and its brand image to leverage its search and GMail business into this new market. If you have a GMail account, everything is already available for you. In my opinion, even though GMail is not the most popular web mail, it has a large proportion of the first movers, and these are the type of people who will start switching everything to on-line applications. It appears to be a smart move, but is it evil? Not for me. Search is a Google virtual-monopoly right now, but it doesn't give me access to these applications. Having a GMail acocunt does, but GMail is a small player in the web -mail market.

Google's applications are kind of like the Open Source 3 Bs -- beta, buggy, and butt ugly. OK, it's not really that bad in either camp, but Google definitely pushes features out quickly without worrying about some of the side effects (sharing personal information or breaking stuff) and doesn't emphasize flashiness. They lack integration and a consistent look and feel, something which I think the developers should look toward. They are also too minimalistic for most people, I would imagine.

Google is probably good for you, and OK for a school, but there's someone else I'd recommend for the average business.

Zoho is business software through and through. Consistent look -- desktop application model to minimize training, and all the little workflow pieces that Google lacks. I think I'd actually like using Zoho at work. That says a lot.

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