Zoho Notebook brings the office online

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You're generally thought of as being crazy when you try to bring a product to market against one giant behemoth. What do you call a company that tries to bring a product to market against two goliaths?

That's the challenge facing Zoho, which will launch its Zoho Notebook online office application at DEMO 2007. Not only is Zoho trying to convince users to switch from Microsoft Office, but it’s also trying to persuade people not try Google’s online office applications.

Zoho's Raju Vegesna admits that it’s a big task, but says Google's entry into the online office application space helps legitimize the market and makes people think about using these applications instead of just relying on Microsoft Office.

Zoho, a division of AdventNet, has offered a bunch of free online applications for about 14 months now, including Zoho Writer (word processing), Zoho Sheet (spreadsheets), Zoho Show (presentations) and Zoho Wiki (online wiki), among others.

At this week's DEMO 2007, the company will announce Zoho Notebook, which at first glance may make you think of Microsoft's OneNote application, but upon closer examination offers much more.

Zoho Notebook is an "online spiral notebook," letting users create pages that could include any sort of digital content, from text, audio, video or images. In addition, the system integrates with all of the other Zoho applications, so users can do their word processing within the notebook page framework. Audio can be uploaded from existing files, or recorded directly from the application – the same goes for video – upload a video from an XML source (such as YouTube) or just turn on a Webcam and hit the record button.

When a "page" or "book" is created, it can be publicly posted to a Web site, or the URL can be sent to others, who can just view the page via a standard Web browser. Working with the Notebook seems to be easier than trying to draw things in a standard e-mail client and trying to collaborate with others through a messaging system.

Vegesna says Zoho Notebook has three primary uses – the ability for users to create any type of content on a single page, like an old-fashioned notebook page; the ability to aggregate content from several different sources – adding Web pages, RSS feeds, to the page; and collaborating with others in a real-time and easier method than other collaboration tools.

The real-time collaboration features will allow multiple people to work on a "document" at the same time – because users can assign different parts of the documents (known as objects) to different people. If you need one person to write one part of your press release, you can assign that section to the person and let the other people focus on the other parts.

Like much of the other Zoho applications, Zoho Notebook will initially be offered free for individual users – businesses will be offered additional features for multiple licenses.

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