As the Zoho suite matures, one of the architectural themes that is driving our evolution is the focus on the user’s context and workflow and avoiding the context switch as much as possible. Context switching is expensive. It destroys the flow and rhythm of a users, and is a real productivity killer, as I discussed with Larry Dignan of ZDNet last week.
We have many examples of this in the Zoho suite today: Email + Docs , CRM + Email , Projects + Google Apps , Discussions + Presence, just to highlight a few. But at another level, we have barely gotten started. The productivity gains for users from such integration is enormous, but in the traditional desktop or client-server world, it is so tedious to do these integration projects that most of them never even get started. The cloud makes such integration far, far easier, as we are finding out.
We see Zoho apps in terms of 3 categories: Communication and Collaboration, Business Apps and Productivity, with very substantial data flowing across these categories. As such integration projects proceed, we start to notice something subtle: the boundary between apps tends to dissolve, as data flows contextually across apps. Apps move to the background, data and context start to dominate. In the cloud world, data is not the slave of any particular application, but flows to whichever context that needs it. This has profound implications.
It is an exciting phase of cloud evolution, and I believe contextual integration will emerge as one of the major themes in how apps continue to evolve. As boundaries between apps dissolve, product strategy, partnerships, pricing, marketing – all of these have to keep up with that new technological reality.