Zoho, a Web-hosted Microsoft Office and Google competitor, has announced offline support for their Zoho Mail product. Zoho Mail joins Zoho Writer -- the company's word processing product -- in using (ironically enough) Google Gears for offline support and access.
By comparison, Google has yet to implement any type of offline access to their Web-hosted email product, Gmail. Zoho, in choosing to utilize Google's own offline-enabling engine, beat the search giant to the punch in an effort to remain competitive in the space.
Why Offline Access Matters
In order to become a prevalent alternative for groups and organizations to consider ditching Microsoft Office or other enterprise solutions, hosted Web applications need to be available to users when they are offline. This is because business professionals and teams need to be able to access their data while out of range of a Wi-Fi signal and thereby have no active data access to their information.
Zoho, as we previously covered, is making efforts to sell their Writer and Mail products as business-ready, feature-rich online solutions so businesses feel confident trusting their business processes to the Web startup.
Zoho Products Grow Up
At this point, Zoho mail is not accessible to other email clients via POP or IMAP, but Zoho is said to be working on adding these capabilities. As stated on their blog: "Zoho Mail can also act as an email client. Apart from your Zoho account, you can also configure it to send and receive emails from other POP Accounts (IMAP is coming soon). Zoho Mail (like all other Zoho Apps) is ad-free and also has no storage limit." Zoho Mail Interface If Zoho keeps up its aggressive feature roll-out, just as they did with their CRM product and HTML-editing Creator products, the company and its users stand to benefit significantly.
Comparing Zoho To The Competition
Cloud computing has yet to take off in the enterprise world. While popular in consumer-focused Web applications, Web-hosted software has not yet made inroads into the corporate environment. Offline access is important. However, not many Web applications have made the jump to being available while users are offline.
Google, the creator of Google Gears engine, has only integrated Google Gears into two products, including Google Reader (the RSS feed reader) and Google Docs with its spreadsheets and word processing documents. Yahoo! Mail offers offline access through Zimbra technology, but the Web application industry has yet to rollout offline access en masse.
Getting Started with Zoho's Offline Access
In order to utilize Zoho Mail or Writer while you are offline, you will need to have the Google Gears add-on installed on your computer. The Internet browsers that are currently Gears-compatible are Microsoft Internet Explorer and Microsoft Firefox, according to Zoho's Blog.
Zoho's implementation of offline access is a great move. Zoho going up against Google could be expressed as a David vs. Goliath type of battle. Zoho, being David, needs to concentrate on delivering useful features to lure away enterprise customers from the larger competitors in the Web-hosted application space.
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