Zoho Virtual Office Launching Tomorrow; Racing Google to Market

Comment

Online productivity company Zoho is finally bringing all its various services together into one offering with the release of the Zoho Virtual Office at tomorrow’s Office 2.0 conference.

Virtual Office, or ZohoX, will integrate most of the 10+ Zoho services already available and add several more like Webmail and calendaring. The whole thing will be unveiled on Wednesday but there’s a small screenshot at the end of this post. The service will be free for individual use and cost $9 per user for SMBs. Users across multiple locations can access the same workspace with their own admin and user list; the ability to collaborate across organizations will be available soon.

Zoho offers almost any productivity application you can think of online and almost everything not included now that I asked about the company told me is on its way soon. Zoho is also included in the exclusive WebEx Connect partnership program for web conferencing. See our previous coverage of Zoho here.

Last week the company implemented a single sign on system across Zoho Writer, Zoho Sheet, Zoho Show, Zoho Planner, Zoho Creator and Zoho Chat. The remaining services from the company will be included in single sign on soon. Zoho products generally work well – an Infoworld review of web based productivity services last week for example said that Zoho “blew the rest out of the water.”

I asked the company what they were going to do about the spectre of Google Office. Besides the fact that there is no such product available yet, Zoho emphasized that they are aiming at usability akin to desktop applications. GMail, for example, is not something that an entire office of Outlook based workers can be expected to rapidly adopt they say. I think that’s a viable strategy. Zoho is making a strong, early showing in the online productivity space and I think they stand a good chance in the market.

The 60 employee company reports that they already have more than 100,000 distinct individual users. With single sign on that means they aren’t counting Zoho Show and Zoho Writer users twice. With the unveiling of Zoho Virtual Office this week, that number may make a big jump.

New Services

The newest individual tool available with the new release is Zoho Webmail. Instead of getting a new email account, Zoho users can plug multiple POP email accounts into the Zoho interface. That interface can switch from an Outlook style view to a Gmail style view with a single click. Emails can be previewed in Ajax drop down boxes, organized in hierarchal folders and viewed as threads. Each email account comes with 1 GB of free storage. RSS subscription will be added to webmail soon.

The webmail service is tightly integrated with Zoho’s new calendar, task lists and note taking. When you create a new event or note based on an email, those items include a link back to the email from which they came. The full calendar program supports import and export in iCal now and RSS subscription is forthcoming.

Email, calendar and task manager functions are all tied as well to a group discussion or forum component. From inside the Groups forums users can also do IM with Zoho Chat, share events, tasks and documents.

Virtual Desktop

These new features, not to mention the long list of services already offered by Zoho, are all managed through the desktop view in Virtual Office. It’s a well organized dashboard that pulls in the newest information from and access to all the different features.

Files can be edited without being downloaded and multiple versions are saved. MP3 files can also be listened to from inside the Virtual Office. Right now the various Zoho services open in a frame inside the Virtual Office, but in coming weeks all the functionality of services like Zoho Writer and Zoho Show will be baked into the desktop view itself.

A link list can be added to the sidebar for pages users want to view from inside Virtual Office. The company demonstrated this to me using the Google RSS Reader and it worked well to click from that link over to a Zoho app and back again.

That dashboard can be displayed with custom skins, custom header links and a user’s company logo. There’s WAP mobile access.

All of the above worked fairly well in the demo I did and I expect it will only improve in time. The interface was very responsive, making good use of Ajax. Zoho Virtual Office does a good job of pulling a long list of productivity apps into one coherent workspace. It didn’t feel overloaded to me at all.

The Future of Zoho

This is a very dynamic company so I had to pry into their plans for the future. Here’s some things users can look forward to.

  • Zoho CRM integration with Virtual Office.
  • An EchoSign partnership to allow esignature requests and processing from within Zoho Writer (look for this in a matter of weeks.)
  • Outlook and Thunderbird sync plugins.
  • Skype integration with all the products, probably three months away.
  • Six more Zoho products launching over the next 6 months.

Computing is moving to the cloud and Zoho is positioning itself well to be an important player. Concerns like security, interface responsiveness and service stability are being worked on throughout the sector now and I think will be shored up quickly as customers arrive and resources are transferred into R&D by these companies or very forward looking startups are acquired. See for example Seattle startup MyPW, a consumer facing RSA type provier of consumer security for web services. I just got off the phone with another company that I’ll write about Friday that seeks to provide a free API to services like Zoho for automatic syncing with local storage.

The Office 2.0 conference should exciting but we’ll see if anyone can steal the show from Zoho.

More TechCrunch

Tags

Welcome back to TechCrunch’s Week in Review. This week had two major events from OpenAI and Google. OpenAI’s spring update event saw the reveal of its new model, GPT-4o, which…

OpenAI and Google lay out their competing AI visions

Expedia says Rathi Murthy and Sreenivas Rachamadugu, respectively its CTO and senior vice president of core services product & engineering, are no longer employed at the travel booking company. In…

Expedia says two execs dismissed after ‘violation of company policy’

When Jeffrey Wang posted to X asking if anyone wanted to go in on an order of fancy-but-affordable office nap pods, he didn’t expect the post to go viral.

With AI startups booming, nap pods and Silicon Valley hustle culture are back

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

A new crop of early-stage startups — along with some recent VC investments — illustrates a niche emerging in the autonomous vehicle technology sector. Unlike the companies bringing robotaxis to…

VCs and the military are fueling self-driving startups that don’t need roads

When the founders of Sagetap, Sahil Khanna and Kevin Hughes, started working at early-stage enterprise software startups, they were surprised to find that the companies they worked at were trying…

Deal Dive: Sagetap looks to bring enterprise software sales into the 21st century

Keeping up with an industry as fast-moving as AI is a tall order. So until an AI can do it for you, here’s a handy roundup of recent stories in the world…

This Week in AI: OpenAI moves away from safety

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

1 day ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024

Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Goodcarbon’s $5.5M seed deck

Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.

Slack under attack over sneaky AI training policy

A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…

Healthcare company WebTPA discloses breach affecting 2.5 million people

Featured Article

Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.

1 day ago
Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Ember has partnered with HSBC in the U.K. so that the bank’s business customers can access Ember’s services from their online accounts.

Embedded finance is still trendy as accounting automation startup Ember partners with HSBC UK

Kudos uses AI to figure out consumer spending habits so it can then provide more personalized financial advice, like maximizing rewards and utilizing credit effectively.

Kudos lands $10M for an AI smart wallet that picks the best credit card for purchases

The EU’s warning comes after Microsoft failed to respond to a legally binding request for information that focused on its generative AI tools.

EU warns Microsoft it could be fined billions over missing GenAI risk info

The prospects for troubled banking-as-a-service startup Synapse have gone from bad to worse this week after a United States Trustee filed an emergency motion on Wednesday.  The trustee is asking…

A US Trustee wants troubled fintech Synapse to be liquidated via Chapter 7 bankruptcy, cites ‘gross mismanagement’

U.K.-based Seraphim Space is spinning up its 13th accelerator program, with nine participating companies working on a range of tech from propulsion to in-space manufacturing and space situational awareness. The…

Seraphim’s latest space accelerator welcomes nine companies

OpenAI has reached a deal with Reddit to use the social news site’s data for training AI models. In a blog post on OpenAI’s press relations site, the company said…

OpenAI inks deal to train AI on Reddit data

X users will now be able to discover posts from new Communities that are trending directly from an Explore tab within the section.

X pushes more users to Communities

For Mark Zuckerberg’s 40th birthday, his wife got him a photoshoot. Zuckerberg gives the camera a sly smile as he sits amid a carefully crafted re-creation of his childhood bedroom.…

Mark Zuckerberg’s makeover: Midlife crisis or carefully crafted rebrand?

Strava announced a slew of features, including AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, a new ‘family’ subscription plan, dark mode and more.

Strava taps AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, unveils ‘family’ plan, dark mode and more

We all fall down sometimes. Astronauts are no exception. You need to be in peak physical condition for space travel, but bulky space suits and lower gravity levels can be…

Astronauts fall over. Robotic limbs can help them back up.

Microsoft will launch its custom Cobalt 100 chips to customers as a public preview at its Build conference next week, TechCrunch has learned. In an analyst briefing ahead of Build,…

Microsoft’s custom Cobalt chips will come to Azure next week

What a wild week for transportation news! It was a smorgasbord of news that seemed to touch every sector and theme in transportation.

Tesla keeps cutting jobs and the feds probe Waymo