|Publication: SoHo News and Tips|
Web-Based Software Offers Cheap Option
Subscribe FREE to SoHo News and Tips by clicking here.
SoHo NEWS & TIPS
Helping You Make the Most of Your Small Office/Home Office
Today's article poses the question of whether or not your
company should switch to online alternatives to Microsoft's
widely used software. Find out if your organization would be
better suited for one of these less expensive options.
Be sure to visit the SoHo News and Tips blog!
SoHo News & Tips Blog
How would you like to Make THOUSANDS of DOLLARS a Week,
Get prepared for what you're about to see and hear. The next
15 minutes are going to change your life forever.
Q: How would you like to earn Thousands of Dollars EVERY WEEK,
with a 12 year old Debt-free Company in a fully automated
online business that requires only 9 minutes of your time each
A: Visit Us... It will only take 15 minutes for you to find
out how we're doing it...
Earn thousands per week
NEWS & TIDBITS
- XM slashed its subscriber growth estimates for a
second time this year...
- Kazaa's owners agree to a $115M settlement...
- Time announces it will cease production of Teen
- BetOnSports announces it has fired its CEO,
following his U.S. arrest on racketeering charges...
- Rumor has it Genisys Financial filed for bank-
ruptcy and locked its doors Monday...
- Wal-Mart Stores in Germany said that it would
sell its 85 stores to a German retailer, the Metro
- Inco Ltd. conceded defeat in the batttle for
Falconbridge Ltd., giving up on its offer after it
failed to win enough shares...
- Google has had its proposed $90m settlement in a
click fraud case approved by a US state judge...
GopherCentral's Question of the Week
Do you think there should be an immediate cease fire in
Please take a moment to share your opinion, visit:
Question of the Week
URGENT MESSAGE: Throw out Your Old Bakeware...
We've got the most revolutionary product released in the
last 10 years... and it's available at a HUGE savings.
You've probably heard of Silicone Bakeware, but thought
you couldn't afford it. We're thrilled to be able to
offer this Exclusive 3-PC Silicone Bakeware Set for 1/2
You get one (1) Bundt Pan, one (1) Loaf Pan and one (1)
Muffin Pan all for just $14.99... OR EVEN LESS, read on...
With it's patented, high-gloss nonstick finish, this set
is rated from -58F to 428F. Silicone Bakeware has long
been used by professional chefs because it cooks and browns
evenly, cools quickly and the flexible silicone makes
removing baked goods easy. AND it's dishwasher safe. Get
more info or place an order by visiting:
Amazing 3-PC Silicone Bakeware Set
Web-Based Software Offers Cheap Option
By ROBERT A. GUTH
Staff Reporter of The Wall Street Journal.
For years, software makers and Web boosters have
been forecasting that the Internet would break
Microsoft Corp.'s stranglehold over business soft-
ware. Instead of buying a copy of, say, Microsoft
Word and installing it on your computer, you would
travel to a Web site, type and edit your document
there and store it online. The fee would be tiny
compared with the cost of buying Microsoft's soft-
ware, and you wouldn't have to pay anyone to
troubleshoot the program or update it.
Now a host of small software companies -- and some
Internet giants like Google -- are bringing that
vision closer to reality. A quick search online
will yield a host of inexpensive -- or free --
online alternatives to Microsoft's widely used
software. With names like Writely, ThinkFree and
AjaxWrite, these offerings cover the gamut of
standard desktop applications -- from word process-
ors to spreadsheets to email.
But that raises a big question. Should your
business make the switch?
The answer: It depends on the size of your
organization, and your needs.
The appeal of these programs is simple. They're
much less expensive than Microsoft's offerings,
and since they're based online, you can use them
anywhere you can access the Web. In addition,
since you're storing your data online, it's much
easier to share with colleagues, customers and
suppliers. People can simply travel to a central
Web page and see the information they need.
But those benefits come at a price. These programs
are basically stripped-down copies of Microsoft's
offerings. The interfaces look and feel similar
in some instances, but the programs often have
very skimpy features. The online word processors
can do basic functions such as cut and paste and
spell check, but forget about things like the
fancy formatting tools you'll find in Word.
If you can live with that, these programs are
worth checking out. The early adopters of online
software are mostly small companies that want
simpler, less-costly applications than they can
get from Microsoft. Many are start-ups with limit-
ed budgets, while others are divisions or branch
offices of larger companies that don't want all
the functions packed into Microsoft's Office
suite. They are also willing to overlook some of
the shortcomings of the online programs -- such
as a lack of full compatibility with Office --
and trust that the service providers are securing
their sensitive data.
"Our current desktop tools have become almost too
powerful for the average desktop users," says
Melissa Webster, an analyst at research firm IDC.
"There's a point where the online tools get good
enough for some significant percentage of users."
For instance, Ted Hughes spent about two months
last year trying to use a Microsoft program called
Access to create a database for his industrial-
supply company, SoluChem LLC of Austin, Texas. But
he found the complex program daunting to use. And
he knew that when he was done with the database,
he would face another challenge -- figuring out
how to let his suppliers and co-workers tap into
the information over the Web.
Then Mr. Hughes discovered Zoho Creator. This free
Web-based software handled the job -- but without
the bells and whistles of Access that had baffled
him. And since the program stored his data on the
Web, his colleagues could tap into it easily with
a browser. "To me it was like a godsend," says Mr.
Hughes, operations manager at SoluChem. "It did
everything I wanted without the learning process."
But this software may not work for larger
organizations. Businesses already running Office
on thousands of PCs probably need the benefits of
a mature product like Office and a big backer like
Microsoft. For their money -- which can be $400
per user -- Office customers get support, bug
fixes and peace of mind that their supplier will
be around for years to come. The software giant
also has deep resources to invest in new functions
for its products, such as forthcoming additions
that let workers manage phone calls and instant
messages from Office applications.
Jeff Raikes, president of Microsoft's Business
Division, downplays the knockoffs as narrowly
focused and "simpler in form" than Office. "Most
companies want one set of office tools that can
meet the broad range of needs in the organization,"
Mr. Raikes says. "It's simpler, easier to use and
manage, and everybody can share their content."
At this point, it's unclear what effect these new
programs will have on Microsoft's commanding
position in business software. Even if lots of
small businesses migrate to these online offerings
-- which is no sure thing -- Microsoft will likely
hold on to big corporate customers for some time.
Large businesses generally need more feature-full
software than small ones, such as the advanced
number-crunching options that Excel offers. And
many large businesses, for security and competitive
reasons, are loath to entrust their computer
systems to other companies and so likely won't move
to applications hosted by a third party anytime
Still, some businesses say they'd be prepared to
abandon Microsoft if and when the alternatives
grow sophisticated enough. That's the view at
Interim HealthCare Inc., a home health-care
provider with tens of thousands of PCs spread
across the U.S. Satish Movva, Interim's chief
information officer, says his company has tested
many Office alternatives over the years but has
yet to find a solid replacement. The alternatives
still can't handle documents created in Office
well enough for his needs and aren't as "polished"
as Office, he says.
But moving from Office to a cheaper alternative
remains a goal. "Realistically, we want that day
to come," Mr. Movva says. If another program can
let Interim open a huge Excel spreadsheet without
a hitch, "I think I can make a business case for
moving to it," Mr. Movva says.
There are signs that Microsoft is watching its
back. The software giant is taking a page from its
online competitors and rolling out its own Web
applications under a service it calls Office Live.
Now being tested by about 100,000 people -- mostly
in small businesses -- the service is designed to
coexist with Microsoft's Office software. One
selling point: Users will be able to collaborate
over the Web more easily and access their documents
Here's a look at the state of play in online soft-
ware -- some of the best offerings out there, and
what users have to say about them.
In the 1990s, Microsoft bundled a host of programs
into one suite of software called Office -- a
tactic that won a commanding share of the market.
But over the years, Office has drawn lots of fire.
Beyond the price, businesses grumble about the
pressure to upgrade. The next update, expected
early in 2007, will feature radical changes to the
product's interface that could make it easier to
use but will force users to relearn many of its
Now businesses can choose from a host of Office
knockoffs that combine word processors, spread-
sheets and other software. One of the most full-
featured offerings comes from ThinkFree Corp., of
San Jose, Calif. The company originally sold the
suite as conventional desktop software, but it
didn't catch on. So, in April, ThinkFree recast
it as an online offering that includes the
ThinkFree Write word processor, ThinkFree Calc
spreadsheet and ThinkFree Show presentation soft-
ware. The suite is currently free, but ThinkFree
is prepping another version that will carry a
subscription charge. The company hasn't set a
The big knock on ThinkFree's suite was compatibil-
ity: Users complained that the software had
problems handling Office documents. Since so many
businesses use the Microsoft suite, a company
using an alternative is sure to receive Office
files from other companies. Any alternative
program must be able to, for instance, open a Word
file without disturbing the document's formatting.
Jonathan Crow, ThinkFree's director of marketing,
acknowledges that the suite doesn't support some
features in Office, such as macros, which are
shortcuts for automating frequently done tasks.
But he says that the company has addressed many
of the compatibility concerns, and that about 85%
of Office users shouldn't have any problems open-
ing their documents with ThinkFree.
One of ThinkFree's big competitors is AdventNet's
Zoho line, which SoluChem's Mr. Hughes tapped. The
programs, including Zoho Writer and Zoho Sheet,
are available free on AdventNet's Web site. In
addition to the Zoho line, the company makes a
range of software for businesses.
TRANQUIL MOODS DVD
Normal Price: $19.99
DEAL PRICE: $2.99
WOW... that's what you'll say when you watch this amazing
DVD. Visually stunning it's a feast for the mind, body
60 minutes long, it s a rich mosaic of extraordinary record-
ings and visuals that will stimulate your imagination and
enhance your mood.
Featuring music composed by Beethoven, Mozart, Tchaikovsky,
Dvorak, Peer Gyni, plus more, this DVD will captivate your
senses and bring you to a whole new state of relaxation.
You simply must check this out... and if you have high
def TV... it is awe-inspiring to watch. VISIT:
Order Tranquil Moods DVD Now
Tim Lauer, principal of Meriwether Lewis Element-
ary School, in Portland, Ore., uses the Zoho suite.
He uses Zoho Creator, for instance, to make a form
on the Web to collect student information from his
teachers. On the plus side, he says, Zoho is online
and as such it allows him and his staff to share
documents more easily. But the software's Web
interface is also a drawback, he says. There may
be times, such as while traveling, that his staff
wants to work on the spreadsheet but doesn't have
an Internet connection.
Over the years, Microsoft's Excel has grown into a
powerful piece of software, able to handle high-
level data analysis for Wall Street firms and other
numbers-intensive businesses. For some companies,
however, the program has become too complex for
their needs. Now a host of upstarts are offering
simpler spreadsheets, with names like WikiCalc,
Num Sum and iRows. Though few can handle the heavy
load of number crunching that Excel can, some of
these new offerings are exploiting the strengths
of being online services, such as making it easier
for multiple employees to share their work in a
single spreadsheet. Others are more specialized
spreadsheets and online databases that command
higher annual subscriptions.
Healthways Inc., a health-care support provider in
Nashville, Tenn., used to merge Excel spreadsheets
from across the company during the annual budgeting
period. Financial analysts had the unenviable task
of combining 100 different Excel files, says Ian
Miller, senior director at the company. One problem,
he says, was that a change in one spreadsheet
wouldn't automatically "cascade" into others, mean-
ing that an analyst would have to manually enter
the change into different spreadsheets.
So, last year, Healthways signed up for an $800-
per-user annual subscription to an online budget-
ing spreadsheet from Adaptive Planning Inc., of
Mountain View, Calif. Each Healthways unit can
enter its data directly into a central service
that runs remotely on Adaptive Planning's computers,
eliminating the need to merge the different units'
data after the fact.
The service is far pricier than Excel, but Mr.
Miller says it's worth it because Healthways'
analysts now spend more time on their jobs --
analyzing information. "We focus less on data
entry than on analysis," Mr. Miller says.
Still, Healthways isn't done with Excel entirely.
The company still uses the program as a "supple-
mental tool" for tasks such as creating a quick
report before a management meeting, Mr. Miller
Google Inc. in March raised awareness of online
word processors when it bought Upstartle LLC,
maker of Writely.com. The program has a simple
editor and spell checker for creating and altering
documents. At Meriwether Lewis Elementary School,
Mr. Lauer says his teaching staff uses Writely to
share meeting notes. It's free and the school
doesn't have to worry about installing upgrades on
all its PCs, he says. As with other Web applications,
features and improvements are added incrementally
over the Web. Others in the same field are AjaxWrite,
a free service from Ajax 13 Inc., a San Diego-based
company building an online suite, and gOffice from
Silveroffice Inc. of San Francisco.
Still, the offerings are "nothing like a full-
featured text editor," says Bruce Byfield, a
reviewer for NewsForge, a Web site that tracks
open-source software. One problem is that while
many office workers use only, say, 10% of the
features of an Office application such as Word,
"not everyone uses the same 10%." So, many users
are likely to find their favorite feature stripped
out of an online word processor.
The larger question is whether Google will add
Writely to its hosted services, a package of
services that it sells by subscription to business-
es. Expanding on those services would put Google
more directly on Microsoft's turf. Along with
Google Spreadsheets, the company has Gmail and a
calendar program that could be combined into a
suite of hosted offerings. "When we feel like we
have a product that is appealing to the end user,
then we take it into the business world," says
Google General Manager Dave Girouard.
Consumers in recent years have flocked to Google's
Gmail, Microsoft's Hotmail, Yahoo! Mail and other
Web-based email services. The approach is now
catching on at small businesses, schools and branch
offices of larger companies that don't have the
money or expertise to run their own email systems.
Yahoo Inc. is offering email as part of a package
of online offerings that starts at about $9 a month
and includes a customized email address and tools
to set up a Web site. Many of its customers are
small e-commerce sites. Yahoo's latest version of
the software looks a lot like Outlook and has many
of the same features, such as a calendar and
functions like spell-checking.
Late last year, San Jose City College, a community
college in Silicon Valley, didn't have an email
system for its students nor the money to set one
up itself. In December it cut a deal with Google
for a hosted version of Gmail. In February, the
school turned on the email system for its 11,000
students, giving each two gigabytes of storage and
an address with the ending "@jaguar.sjcc.edu."
Michael John Renzi, director of finance and
administration at the college, wouldn't disclose
the financial arrangements with Google.
The goal was to provide a service to students in
the most cost-effective way, Mr. Renzi says. "This
email service does that," he says. "I've been
getting calls from around the world interested in
So what did you think about this issue? Drop me a line and let
me know at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
SoHo News & Tips Archives
End of SoHo News & Tips http://www.SoHoTIPS.com
Copyright 2006 NextEra Media. All rights reserved.
E-Mail this issue
Subscribe FREE to SoHo News and Tips by clicking here.