This is another question we get, particularly from business-oriented users. My policy always is to tell the truth, and no marketing BS, please. Does Zoho do everything that MS Office does? No. It does not yet, and it will take a while to reach feature parity. While it can handle the majority of documents from the MS Office world, it cannot handle everything. It cannot as yet handle complex spreadsheets. It cannot do transitions and effects in Zoho Show. These are the kinds of things our engineering is working on. It is our goal to offer reasonable feature parity, but I will be the first to acknowledge that we have some ways to go. There are no fundamental technological limits here – it is simply sweat and blood and toil (& time!) needed to get there. That self-awareness of our limitations is also why we don’t charge business users yet, instead preferring to encourage them to use Zoho free in the meantime.
Does that mean Zoho is pointless now, until we overcome all those limitations, until it becomes full featured? If it were a desktop suite, yes, it would be kind of pointless to offer a less-than-full-featured experience – the only reason to use it would be the price, which is not a sufficient reason for most people. But in an online application, there is sufficient additional value in a completely different dimension to make it quite useful in many different contexts. I am typing this blog post in Zoho Writer, sitting in a friend’s office. My aging laptop is finally quitting on me, so I borrowed one of his spare old PCs (it runs Windows ME, but Firefox works so well on it that I am typing this post in Zoho Writer!). This anytime, anywhere access to data and apps is one key benefit; easy collaboration is another benefit. Finally, in a pinch, an old PC can serve just as well as a point of access for web apps like Zoho. Granted, all of these don’t substitute for features, but they do make the experience worthwhile, as so many users have found out.
Offering value in a different dimension is not particularly unique to online vs desktop app debate. An MP3 player doesn’t play music to the same fidelity as a full fledged home entertainment system. Yet, the mobility that comes with an MP3 player more than compensates for the slight reduction in sound quality. A cell-phone integrated camera is not as good as a stand-alone camera. But I never owned a real camera, because I wasn’t much of a photographer, so I knew I would never carry around a camera; a cell-phone camera actually makes me take an occasional photo. YouTube video clips don’t replace the TV viewing experience – they add value in a completely different dimension.
And Zoho is very much work in progress. We are working hard on features, functions and user experience – as an example, Zoho Writer and Zoho Creator are slated for some key updates over the next few days. Therein lies another key benefit of the web service model: you inherit those features with no effort at all.
We have come a long way in the last 2 years, but we recognize we still have a long way to go. One thing we assure our users: Zoho will keep getting better!