So You Wanna Beat Google? – Buy Zoho and Aviary

Zoho Should Merge with Aviary to Own the Cloud

zoho aviary merger

Who Owns the Web?

Google – They are the only company that can be considered as an answer. Their quest to create a true web-based operating system has seen them rapidly extend their tentacles into every corner of our lives on the web. Their forays into Search, Email, Productivity Apps, Video, etc. all lead back to one thing: Advertising Revenue. They are becoming a monopoly in ways that Microsoft never fathomed. If we don’t want to have the next decade be like the MicroSoftOpoly that the 90s were, somebody needs to offer up a little resistance.

How the Desktop was Dominated

If you look at a Windows computer, there are really two companies that can provide almost everything you need: Microsoft and Adobe.

Since computers are just electronic brains; I like to call Microsoft the left brain and Adobe the right brain. (see chart below)

left-brain-rigth-brain.gif

Microsoft owns the Left Brain with their extended Office suite. Adobe owns the Right Brain with their aptly named “Creative Suite”. Yeah, there are a lots of other competitors, but none can claim such large chunks of real estate.


Who is Dominating the Cloud Based Desktop?

With the desktop software market being so mature, massive attention has turned to the largely untapped web-based application market. While nobody owns this market yet, it’s pretty clear that Google has a commanding lead.

Google Docs is currently the most popular web base Office suite. They also have the best webmail service (IMHO) in Gmail. They integrated Instant Messaging, Video Chat, and recently Voice phone calls into Gmail. They also have Calendar and Tasks applications to round out the productivity suite. (A very strong Left Brain)

On the creative side of things they have a more modest selection. The recently acquired Picknic allows you to edit pictures and Picasa allows you to store, manage, and share them. They have not integrated a good video editing tool into YouTube yet, but I’m sure they will eventually. (A fairly weak Right Brain)

Is there Any Competition?

Some of the other big names are chasing Google with varying degrees of success.

Microsoft – Office, Storage, Email, IM, Calendar, Contacts

Adobe – Documents, Storage

Yahoo – Email, Calendar, Contacts, IM

While Microsoft is the best of this sorry bunch, they are still waaaay behind Google.

Google’s Biggest Threat Comes from a few Little Guys

Google’s mix is currently the biggest game in town but it certainly isn’t the best. Strong Left Brain – Weak Right Brain. There are actually two small companies (Zoho and Aviary) that have been quietly building online homages to Microsoft and Adobe’s desktop portfolios.

Zoho – They have an enormous Office / Productivity suite that seems to improve daily. (The Left Brain) While Zoho’s suite is definitely less popular than Google Docs; it dwarfs them in breadth and depth. The product line, feature set, and interoperability is astounding. They also build everything with the idea of integrating third party applications/tools in mind. Their stuff plugs into other systems very well.

zoho-products.gif

Aviary – Aviary is a free suite of powerful online creative tools. They have an equally impressive set of apps that also regularly improves. (The Right Brain)

Aviary application suite

If these two virtuosos ever combined forces, it would create a web-based version of a Microsoft-Adobe merger.

Do we even need this?

Well, if anyone wants to put up a fight before Google goes all skynet on us, this is the best shot. You need to have a technically better product to even start the conversation. In fact, you really need somebody with the money and muscle to push these services into the mainstream. This could actually steal back much of the territory that Google has gobbled up in the last few years.

A merger of these suites would (at least temporarily) blow Google out of the water. Now who would be logical suitors?

Basically it has to be one of a few Tech Giants. (Microsoft, Adobe, Yahoo, or Apple)

Here’s why each company should and shouldn’t listen to me.

Microsoft

Pro – They have the cash. Zoho integrates with Office already. They have the missing cloud storage tool (Skydrive).

Con – They’re not that good at the whole “web thing”. People love to hate on them.

Yahoo

Pro – They have a big customer base of web app users (Mail, calendar, Flickr, x).

Con – They’re low on cash. They screw up every acquisition they make.

Adobe

Pro – They could make a compelling case for taking your design work with you everywhere. This would let them instantly become a player in a space where they are currently no-shows.

Con – They would probably jam so many bloated, unnecessary features in that it would take 15 minutes to log in.

owned it.

Apple

Pro – It would be a nice way to make stupid Mobile.me actually worth something. Picture seeing Steve Jobs and his minions all updating the same spreadsheet in real-time. Simply Amazing! Besides, they have to do something with that $40 billion of excess capital.

Con – They haven’t exactly dominated the cloud like they have the gadget world.

What about the Enterprise Application Vendors

Oracle, IBM, and SAP are already peddling their wares to tons of medium and large companies. Imagine the prospect of taking a company completely out of the desktop computing game.

Done properly, this could be a pretty compelling solution for the enterprise. All software upgrades are seamlessly done on the server, so nobody ever has to go out to do desktop visits.

You could place barebones, terminal-like machines on desks and control everything from their data center. If someones machine breaks – simple, drop another $100 nettop on their desk and let them log back in. My department at work gets charged $100 every time a guy has to stop by my desk for any reason.

Oracle

Pro – Nobody shops like Oracle. They’ve averaged 1 acquisition per month over the last 6 years. Zoho already integrates with Open Office. It would actually help drive people to that suite. They have a ton of web-based apps installed at companies like yours. Why not let them handle your productivity apps too?

Con – They would probably piss off the entire user base, then forget that they even own the products. Then they would slap some marketing term like Fusion on it and never deliver it. Probably a job for the PeopleSoft team.

IBM

Pro – ???

Con – If Bloatus Louts ever got their useless hands on things they would instantly be rendered useless. The Worst Software Company EVER!!!

SAP

Pro

Con – They would just figure out some way to make things super powerful, but unusable. Then they would brag about how they were better than Oracle.

Conclusion

In this era of Mergers & Acquisitions replacing Research & Development don’t be surprised if you see somebody gain a strong foothold in the fight against Google’s online dominance by acquiring rather than building a better suite of tools. Let’s just hope that it’s someone with enough sense not to screw up some really great tools.

UPDATE: (10/8/2010) – I just read a bunch of articles today speculating about Microsoft actually acquiring Adobe. Wow, I guess I was thinking way too small.

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One response on “So You Wanna Beat Google? – Buy Zoho and Aviary

  1. Ileane

    Chris, you have a great way of making these analogies although I admit that some of them are over my head.
    Here’s my take.
    Use Google Docs, love it
    Used Zoho for about 5 minutes, hated it
    I use the Aviary extension for Chrome at least once a week but the Awesome screenshot extension is quicker and more reliable. I tried the video editor in Aviary and had problem, I noticed they scaled it back to audio editing only.
    Use Excel every day – love it
    Use Word every day – hate it and find it very, very annoying
    Use Oracle every day at work and think it’s the worst software they could have picked for our specific application and I think everyone (except the IT department) agrees with me.
    Love PhotoShop and it’s little cousin Elements.

    I think I’ll come back and read this post again in a few days to see if I have more to say :)

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