Rise of The Firebox

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Yesterday, we got a Zonbu box, a sleek device that arrived in the mail. My first reaction on turning it on was “This is totally silent”. I was determined to detect that wee-bit of sound, may be a little fan or a disk purring somewhere deep inside – I kept it close to the ear, but heard nothing but total silence. Only when you experience the Zonbu, you realize just how much we have been conditioned to expect a computer to make those sounds, and how valuable total silence is. Zonbu says this device is extremely power efficient – another reason to love it.

Before I turn this post into an ode to silence, let me come to my main point. Let me define Firebox to be a device that is designed to run Firefox well. Zonbu is a great Firebox. So is the Asus EEE PC. They run Linux, but the main work is done through the pre-installed Firefox. These come in varying form factors, ranging from small boxes on the desktop to ultra-light portables. Eventually, they will likely come in the iPod form factor too, which would be my preferred configuration. I would like the ability to plug-in an external monitor or keyboard (USB?) in that iPod configuration, so that I am not limited by the screen size. Better still, perhaps a tiny projector could be embedded, along with a virtual keyboard, so that a full keyboard and display are supported, with no additional hardware.

I love the Firebox computing model (yeah, big surprise!). Even now, I normally work on 3 different computers, one a big-screen desktop at work, one laptop and an old PC I keep around at home for testing but I end up using extensively, because it is always on, ready to go. That old PC is still useful mainly because it runs Firefox well. Whenever Raju would let me, I also use a drop-dead gorgeous Mac, which is his main computer. When the Zonbu arrived, within minutes, I was accessing my documents in Zoho – I have a feeling I am going to be spending a lot of time with the Zonbu Firebox, as I have named the device.

Zonbu & Asus EEE PC point to a broader trend; the rise of web applications go hand-in-hand with the rise of such Fireboxes, which most mobiles will be in due course. When these devices break the $100 barrier (the Zonbu already has a $99 price point, with a subscription agreement), perhaps even the $50 barrier, expect mass adoption, particularly in emerging markets. What the $1000 PC did in the US is what the $100 Firebox will do in India. India now has over 250 million mobile phone subscribers. Every one of them is a potential Firebox user in future. Somehow I seriously doubt the $100 Firebox user is going to shell out $300+ for an office suite.

It is an exciting time to be in this industry.

(Update: Krish points out in his comment that Novatium, a Chennai based company is doing something very similar. Their price point is just a little over $100 too. Thanks, Krish!)

Update on Updates

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Couple of weeks back I briefed about updates to different Zoho apps. In the last two weeks we did several important updates as well. Some of the very recent updates include…

Our previous updates also include…

These are some of updates that were rolled out in the past 4 weeks. You’ll see more updates coming soon for other Zoho apps as well. If you’d like to be updated on new Zoho announcements, subscribe here. If you’d like to see any specific features added in Zoho, please drop us a line.

Discussion: Zoho Writer Offline on Google Gears

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Myself and Sridhar sat down with Dion Almaer from Google Gears team to chat regarding our Offline Editing capabilities in Zoho Writer. We talked about how we implemented editing capabilities, what’s next and other related stuff.

Here is the video of our discussions with Dion. He also talked about this in Google Gears blog. You can find our previous discussion here.

Zoho Business – Scheduled Update

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We’ve scheduled an important server-side update for Zoho Business tonight (Tuesday, December 04, 2007) between 10.00PM PST and 11.00PM PST. During this time, access to Zoho Business will not be available.

We apologize for the very short notice and for any inconveniences that this may cause.

Sridhar Interviewed in ‘Working Webware’

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Sridhar was interviewed for the first episode of ‘Working Webware’, a video show done by Dan Farber, ZDNet’s Editor in Chief & Rafe Needleman, Webware.com’s Editor. According to Dan, Working Webware will “look at some of the up and coming companies and products aimed at businesses”.


Watch the video here. More about the episode here : Can Zoho get a good share of the SMB market?

Thanks to Rafe & Dan for the opportunity!

Zoho Planner & Matthew Moran at ITtoolbox

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Matthew Moran at ITTtoolbox finds Zoho Planner so useful that he first had a blog post titled, “The Joy of ZOHO Planner – shared todo lists, tasks, and collaboration…“. He then followed it up with a cool video showing how he uses Zoho Planner. From his post,

I have also been playing around a lot with ZOHO’s suite of applications. I’ll be covering these in more detail over the next few weeks. Suffice to say, their documents are more full-featured and have a better interface than google – hands down.

Zoho Planner allows us [Matt & his wife Laura] to have our own tasks page or pages. We can then share a page or pages of tasks with someone else – giving them read only or read/write access to the page.

I setup a page called Laura’s Shared Tasks and one called Matt’s Shared Tasks. I gave Laura read/write access to both.

Laura can then add tasks, appointments, and notes to my page and to her page. I can see them, I can add tasks, and I can add notes. It does a couple of things. First, she and I both have a place to add tasks to the other person – and notes with greater detail if needed.

Second, we can see the tasks we’ve added in context of other tasks and appointments they (the other person) has due. It helps us know two things – one that the other person has the tasks on their list and two that our tasks to them are not the only things they must do.

And here is Matt’s nice video where he explains Zoho in general followed by a tutorial on how he emails tasks (to-dos) & notes to his Zoho Planner account.

Thanks, Matt! Now, to the readers of this blog – do tell us how you are using Zoho Planner.

Mashing it up with Zoho Sheet and Zoho Creator

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Our users have created some cool mashups using Zoho Sheet and Zoho Creator. The first two examples are from Jynn, a software engineer from Hyderabad, India. In the first application, Jynn mashes up Zoho Creator, Google Maps and Yahoo Pipes.

Zoho Creator offers end users a brand new way to perform basic CRUD operations using the web both as a database and for processing data.

Here I will briefly describe how I used Google Maps to Integrate with Zoho Creator,Using simple transformations with Yahoo pipes.

The application and its uses:
This Integration i.e Creator +Maps can be used in many ways e.g., Tracking Inventory, tracking Human resources, Basic Travel maps or even geographic maps of movie theatres where a current movie is playing.

This application overlays Zoho creator data onto a Google Map i.e in this case Movie Theatres where a particular movie is playing shown on a Google map.
Zoho creator is used to update movie info using the UI or even Bulk upload and Google maps is used to overlay the data.

I also used the cool technology of Yahoo Pipes to basically transform the Feed generated by Zoho Creator.

In the second example, Jynn uses Zoho Sheet along with Dapper, Yahoo Pipes and Google Maps. Here’s how Jynn describes the application :

The Application:
There is a live excel sheet hosted on Zoho Sheets,which gives info on Radio stations in India for radio Enthusiasts….

Updating the sheet with coordinates will be immediately reflected in the Google Maps

Technology Used:

Zoho Sheet:
Can be embedded onto your blog/webpage (Here it is in my blog),and contains City name and Location

Dapper :
This is the killer app which I used to parse the HTML output from Zoho Sheet and convert to RSS.

Yahoo Pipes:
To extract Geo Encoded data From The RSS feed…

The next one comes from Pete Thomas of Land of Zoho Creator fame. Pete mashes up Oodle, the local classifieds site with Zoho Creator. Nicknamed Zoodle, the prototype mashup creates the work flow of the customer service process for Pete’s friend Ted. From the post :

Zoodle will let Ted enter the listing data he gets from a BuggyRocket customer as it becomes available and only publish it for Oodle to pick up once it’s complete. Other features include:

  • Listing detail page: Although it’s not the slickest looking thing in the world, we do manage to provide a “detail page” served directly from Zoodle. We also provide an image URL in the same fashion.
  • Private application with some public pages: Ted’s use of Zoodle requires his authentication but the detail page, image URL, and Oodle XML feed are all publicly available on the web.
  • Gradual approach to form completion: Through the use of several forms that are attached to the main “Essentials” form, Ted can easily fill out the parts of a real estate listing that he currently has data for and come back to finish the rest at any time before publishing.
  • Republishing: Data can be edited, overwritten, and republished at any time.

Thanks Jynn & Pete!

If you have such mashups made using Zoho, please do leave your comments.

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