Zoho’s founder and CEO Sridhar Vembu is an extremely smart man and one of the hidden gems of Silicon Valley. I say hidden gems as other companies such as Instagram, Foursquare and other companies get much more press than Zoho – which is quietly building a powerful ecosystem and ecosystem of paying customers.
In a recent blog post he writes that Google is not serious about their apps but. He also writes that Microsoft Office 365 is the real challenger.
Well, today, the Wall Street Journal has a well-researched post by Clint Boulton, Google Organizational Changes Cloud the Future of Apps. On purely strategic grounds, the enterprise business is very sales and support intensive, and it does not have the potential to offer Google-y margins. Microsoft achieved its 90 percent operating margin due to its monopoly pricing power, and the emergence of the cloud and mobile devices, in part thanks to Google’s role, has eroded that pricing power. So it was always clear, to me at least, that Google was in this game to make sure Microsoft does not have the infinite cash to keep throwing money at search. As Google’s strategic threat from Microsoft fades into the rearview mirror while Facebook emerges as a strong potential threat, I predicted that Google would naturally lose interest in what remains a fundamentally inferior business to its own core business. Senior executives at Google in charge of the Apps business seem to be reading the tea leaves, as Boulton reports. There have been a slew of executive departures and other organizational changes in the Google Apps division.
At Zoho, of course, we have patiently been investing in R&D, while building our business for the long haul. We came to the conclusion a while ago that ad-driven consumer internet business is a poor fit for a business-focused suite of apps. In an ad-driven business, the users are the product, to be packaged and sold to advertisers. When you ask someone to directly pay for something, as a visitor or a user becomes a customer, the very nature of the engagement changes.
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