Sunday, May 04, 2008


I discovered recently Zoho (, a desktop application service provider. The tools are neat and expanding. You can do the classical office jobs such as word processing, spread-sheet and presentation, a mail app is still in beta and I haven't tried their database application yet.

There are also business apps coming: CRM and invoicing. The business model is not advertising or marketing based (I applause), basic usage is free while heavy / professional usage may be charged.

Globally it is a nice set of tools. In my opinion the tag-based filling system is interesting, yet it is difficult to see all type of document related to let say a project or a customer. Also I could not find an easy way to include a spread-sheet in a text - except may be like an HTML iframe. I admit, I am a novice user of their system.

A much more strategic issue is concerning technical integration and freedom. We miss a global model and a good bunch of standards to rent applications from multiple vendors and mix them to achieve an IT system.

Having said that, the worth part is in the terms and conditions. Well, read and think about it... Prices may change, free things may become costy and no warranty is made about your data, availability of services etc.

This is in my opinion, a key problem of this kind of business (the following it is not specifically related to Zoho). We have here an emerging industry rejecting most forms of liability, warranty and responsibility!

Obviously a remote ASP cannot guarantee that my ISP will do its job, but aren't they responsible if they garbage my data? Or may be should they think about charging for such extra-liability. Obviously the bottom line is made by insurance companies, only these can help creating professional ASP a reality. The model should be similar to life insurance and air transportation: a basic fee built in your ticket and more can be purchased if the customer wants to do so.

As I wait for that, I would recommend these services to implement at least a clean backup system (some ISP propose this for databases), so a user can retrieve all its data in a somehow common format.