Zoho Creator Pricing “Strategic Blunder” & Lessons Learned

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Recently, we announced pricing for Zoho Creator, which we patterned after Zoho CRM, blithely assuming that since Zoho CRM pricing was exceptionally well-received – indeed, I confidently predict that within 5 years, no one will be able to charge $50-100 per user per month for CRM! – we will do fine with Zoho Creator as well. Indeed, we started receiving customer orders literally within hours of the pricing announcement.

While we provided a Free Edition in Zoho Creator, what we didn’t realize, of course, was the diversity of our user base in Zoho Creator, the most passionate & vocal among them called the pricing Zoho’s first strategic blunder. We had non-profits, independent developers, casual users and so on for whom the Free Edition wasn’t sufficient, and the pricing we announced was just not right. In hindsight, we should have known this: even within AdventNet, Zoho Creator is used in ways that we didn’t anticipate when we developed it. The foremost example is apps being used to organize internal events like cricket matches or movie outings, for collecting information on various participant preferences and so on. These kinds of applications are simply not worth paying for.

We apologize for missing key parts of the Zoho Creator constituency with our first stab at pricing. Now we have revised it significantly, and put a second draft, explicitly recognizing the diversity of needs. I have posted it in the same forum thread and summarize below.

I want to emphasize our commitment to a) keeping a generous free edition so the cost of entry is zero b) affordable pricing, designed to vastly lower the cost of IT to business customers c) Running our own business efficiently enough to turn a profit with (a) & (b). At AdventNet, we have a 12 year history of doing just that, and we have grown organically to this level.

Zoho Creator Free Edition & Independent Users Edition: it is based on personal user accounts, and it will have a limit of 5 free applications and a total of 200 MB of data and a bandwidth limit we are working out, with no shared user limit. We expect to revise the data/bandwidth limits upwards based on usage experience and as prices for these fall. The applications can be private or public. Developers can use this edition to test out their ideas free.

In practice, this will work much like how Zoho Writer or Zoho Sheet personal editions work today, with no sharing limit for number of users. They difference is that there is no administrative relationship among users, while an organization account provides for such administrative relationships, and therefore policy enforcement.

Beyond the free limit, pricing will be based on per application basis, because number of users is not tracked.


Zoho Creator Business Edition:
it is based on organizational accounts, as provided in Zoho Business, a limit of 5 free applications & 200 MB of data, with monthly bandwidth constraints to be specified. It will have a free user quota as well, based on Zoho Business Free Edition limits (likely to be 10 persons in an organization). The key difference is that unlike Free Edition, it will come with administrative policy options, and potentially some extra features to be decided in future.

Beyond the free user limit, pricing will be based on number of users basis, with bands of users. We will start at $5/user/month, and drop it to $3/user/month when we reach 100 users, with volume discounts. We will also announce a bundled package pricing along with Zoho Business when Zoho Business reaches general availability.

Once again, I would like to thank everyone who provided feedback. We don’t always get it right at first, but with your help, we will!

UPDATE : Here’s the new pricing model for Zoho Creator – http://sheet.zoho.com/publishrange.do?id=1427f0d4768347bb628851c41b67ad0c

UPDATE :
New Pricing Page for Zoho Creator & a Pricing FAQ.

Huddle Integrates Zoho

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huddle.jpgHuddle combines group collaboration, project management and document sharing using social networking principles. Huddle now integrated Zoho Applications for viewing and editing documents inside their application.

Huddle used our Remote API to integrate Zoho Writer and Zoho Sheet. This allows Huddle users to create, view and edit documents, spreadsheets within their familiar interface respecting Huddle’s security, permissions and workflow rules.

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We’d like to thank Huddle for integrating Zoho and are looking forward to more such integrations. All our API Partners are listed here.

Zoho Wiki : Improved Free Plan, Domain Level Permissions etc

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Zoho Wiki’s latest update added the below goodies :

  • Free plan improved
    • Number of wikis per free account increased from 1 to 2
    • File attachment storage space for each Wiki increased from 10 MB to 25 MB
  • Domain and registered users permission settings
    • Provide permission to your domain users (your company/organization’s email domain) to create/edit/view/delete pages & post comments to your wiki. No separate invitation mail need to be sent, just signing up with Zoho is enough for accessing your wiki [a short help page explaining domain level permissions with a screencast]
    • Provide permission to Zoho’s registered users to create/edit/view/delete pages & post comments to your wiki
  • Set Permissions for Page Creation / Deletion
    • Provide permission to who can create pages in your wiki
    • Provide permission to who can delete pages in your wiki
  • Block Users
    • Block users who are mis-using your wiki by Zoho User ID or user email address
  • New Image options
    • See your latest uploaded images and thumbnail view of images
  • Delete file attachment versions
    • Delete unwanted versions of a file attachment. Comes in handy for reclaiming attachment space [Caution: you cannot revert back your content once you delete a version]

Try the new Zoho Wiki and we would love to hear your feedback comments.

Zoho Invoice integrates with Zoho CRM

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Continuing the Zoho Apps integration series, we are pleased to announce the integration between Zoho Invoice and Zoho CRM. Users can now use the customer information in Zoho CRM while raising invoices or estimates using Zoho Invoice.

A few points before you read on:

  • This is just a first step towards our goal of complete integration.
  • You will be able to use the customer information from Zoho CRM in Zoho Invoice but not vice versa. That is the invoice information from Zoho Invoice will not be available in Zoho CRM.

To import customer information, what you should do?

Importing customer information from Zoho CRM to Invoice is very simple, just three simple steps –

  1. Go to the “Settings” page and click on the “Import” link on the left under “Import/Export” section.
  2. Specify your Zoho CRM login name and API key. If you don’t have an API key, you can request for one from your Zoho CRM account. For further details refer – Getting API Key.
  3. After filling in the necessary details, click on the “Save & Import” button.

How to get the latest customer information from Zoho CRM to Zoho Invoice?

After the import, keeping the customer records updated in Zoho Invoice is very simple. Click on the “Sync” link on the left. That’s it! All the records will be automatically updated!!

When I say, we will be updating the records, we will be syncing up only those records that have been modified, but still this update is costly, use it judiciously. You also have options to –

  • Sync up the records individually.
  • Sync up a selected set of records.

Soon, we will be providing you options to synchronize the custom views defined in Zoho CRM.

How does this integration work?

When you click on the import button, we use the “Login Name” and the “API Key” that you have provided to connect to Zoho CRM. Then we pull up the records using Zoho CRM’s APIs.

Customer information in Zoho CRM will be considered the master. So, in case of conflicts the records in Zoho Invoice will be updated with the one from Zoho CRM.

Some specific details:

There is no concept like contact’s address in Zoho Invoice, so we will not be pulling out this information from Zoho CRM. Remember, contact’s address is different from customer’s address. We do make use of the customer’s address.

What next?

Our next immediate priority on this front includes (but not necessarily limited to) –

  1. Help import product and pricing information.
  2. Help map custom fields defined for various entities – customers, products etc.
  3. Once our (Zoho Invoice) APIs are ready, we will be targeting a much tighter integration whereby it will be possible to see invoices generated in Zoho Invoice from the Zoho CRM client.

Hope you find this integration useful; please feel free to share your comments.

Check into this feature by logging into Zoho Invoice now.

eyeOS Integrates Zoho

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Online Desktop vendor eyeOS integrated Zoho Suite into their application. Currently Zoho Writer and Sheet are integrated into eyeOS. Zoho Show will be integrated after we open up the APIs for creating presentations.

eyezohosuite_capture.png

To use the Zoho Apps on eyeOS, you need to install eyeZohoSuite from eyeos-apps.org. Once you have it installed, you’ll be able to view your existing documents and spreadsheets from Zoho Writer and Zoho Sheet respectively. This also lets you create new documents and spreadsheets as well. eyeOS plans to support opening Open Office documents soon with Zoho Apps going forward.

The following video gives you a quick overview of the integration.

We’d like to thank eyeOS for integrating Zoho. If you are planning to integrate Zoho into your application, please do let us know and we’ll be glad to help you. Other partners who integrated Zoho are listed here.

Specifying Tax or VAT ID in Invoices

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One of the most important feature requests in Zoho Invoice has been the ability to specify the Tax or VAT ID in the invoices that gets generated. We are happy to announce the availability of this feature in our service. Now you can specify your company’s and customer’s Tax or VAT ID in the invoices.

Where to specify Tax or VAT ID? Where will they appear on the invoices?

  • Company’s Tax or VAT ID: You can specify these values in the “Company Profile” page under “Settings”. Make use of the custom fields, refer to the image below for details -

vat-invoice-compnay.gif

  • Customer’s Tax or VAT ID: You can specify these values while adding new customer or while updating the customer record. Make use of the custom fields, refer to the image below for details -

vat-invoice-customer.gif

How to change their position in the invoice that gets generated?

If you use pre-defined templates then they will appear in the invoices as shown in the above image.

Note:

  1. You can specify up to three custom fields for “Company” and “Customer”. The first two fields will appear between the “Name” and “Address”. The third custom field will appear below the “Address”. The idea is to give some flexibility in positioning of the custom fields.
  2. If you just have some static value to be inserted into the invoice, which cannot be expressed as label and value, then put this in the value field without specifying the label. It will appear as such in the invoice that gets generated.

If you make use of the custom template, then you are at your liberty to decide the position of these custom fields.

Additional Information:

If the custom fields are common across your customers, you can save the label of the custom fields as default so that they appear automatically whenever you add a new customer. This will save you from the pains of entering the details again and again.

Hope you find this feature useful; feel free to share your comments.

Check into this feature by logging into Zoho Invoice now.

IBM, Microsoft & Google Eras of Computing

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By now it is conventional wisdom to say that there was an IBM Era of computing, then a Microsoft Era, and now we are in the Google Era. In this post, I will explain why Microsoft was not the “next IBM” and why Google is not the “next Microsoft” – there are significant qualitative differences among them, quite apart from their status as the dominant, era-defining players. Understanding that qualitative difference is crucial for third party vendors  like Zoho to thrive.  I was reminded of this because of the IBM/Google partnership unveiled today (via Dan Farber & see also Nick Carr). As an aside, I have coined a kind of Moore’s Law on these computing eras:

The dominant technology company in a generation reaches its pinnacle at about half the size of the dominant company in the previous generation, and it retains its dominance for half as long.

The original IBM mainframe era (in contrast to today’s IBM) was one of highly closed systems. IBM was not just the dominant player of the era, IBM was pretty much the entire ecosystem. There just wasn’t a lot of room for third parties to play in. Third parties were marginalized companies surviving on IBM’s sufferance or professional services companies (like EDS) or were providers of cheap replacement parts, which felt vaguely dirty, borderline legal (consider today’s third party print cartridge situation as an analogy). 

In contrast to IBM, Microsoft was far more open, which indeed was the original reason for their success. Microsoft unleashed what I would call the semi-open era of computing. The acronym ISV (independent software vendor) came into its own during the Microsoft era. Indeed, Microsoft encouraged ISVs, provided fairly good support – up to a point. The defining test for Microsoft was Netscape, the most prominent ISV that got on the wrong side of Microsoft. Microsoft failed the test by winning; their victory over Netscape forever established their reputation in the industry, a reputation that finds its echo in Yahoo’s cultural resistance to being assimilated. Indeed Nick Carr alludes to that defining Netscape moment in his title “Is Office the New Netscape?”

Now the present Google era. Google has the genetic and cultural advantage of being born in an open source world, with a business model that is aligned with rather than antagonistic to open source. It reflects in how they conduct their ecosystem initiatives. Google Gears comes with one of the most liberal open source licenses (BSD license),   and we at Zoho particularly appreciate the support provided Google’s open source teams. In our extensive interaction with them, we could tell how they truly get the value of openness. That openness is going to be the underpinning of the Google era of computing – I hope they never forget that!

OK, that brings me to our own position as an independent vendor. At Zoho, we fully embrace the fact that we play in a Google world. We also fully recognize that opportunities for independent ecosystem players expanded massively during the Microsoft semi-open era compared to what existed in the IBM era, and they will expand even more significantly in the Google open era. Our goal at Zoho is to be an innovative, vibrant, profitable player in this new era. As much as Microsoft utterly dominated computing, vendors such as Adobe and Intuit built thriving businesses (still thriving!). Even more opportunities of that kind exist for independent ecosystem players in the Google era.

That qualitative difference between IBM, Microsoft & Google (seen during their respective pinnacles) is why we see a huge opportunity at Zoho. Our competition with Google is only a part, an important part to be sure, of what defines us. Cooperation with Google, embracing their open standards, is going to be just as important for our success.