I attended the Under the Radar Office 2.0 event last night in Palo Alto. The event focused on companies innovating in the online productivity and collaboration space. The event was hosted by TechCrunch's Mike Arrington, who made the event both informative and entertaining. He did a reall nice job.
The panelists were:
- Etay Gafni, Director, Technology Innovation Center - SAP
- Ismael Ghalini, IT|Redux & CEO - Intalio
- Peter Rip, Managing Director - Leapfrog Ventures
- Sam Schillace, Software Engineer - Google/Writely
What is Office 2.0?
Peter Rip views Office 2.0 as hosted productivity and collaboration apps. Productivity at the personal level and then collaboration at the group level. Believes Office 2.0 service represents a threat to existing business model, some of it likely will be freeware, and some larger enterprises will not adopt 2.0 services due to security concerns.
Sam Schillace from Writely/Google doesn't like comparing features, performances, etc., of Office 2.0 services to legacy desktop apps. Thinks it is more interesting that Office 2.0 apps focus on smaller problems and enabling new scenarios. He thinks Office 2.0 services will eventually catch up on the features, richness, etc., but it will require another generation of browsers before this can happen.
Etay from SAP thinks this trend is interesting because the people making purchase decisions are the ones using the services. This is unique because in most businesses IT makes decisions at a business level on what tools employees can us. He then described this as a problem because people will be operating is silos using isolated apps. I'm not sure I buy this completely, it sounds like he is giving the standard large enterprise vendor anti-best of bread speech.
Ishmael Ghalini from IT|Redux believes most people don’t need all the bells and whistles of client productivity applicatin like Office anyway. Who needs Microsoft Word’s high end capability unless you are writing a book. It is connectedness, remote access, cost benefits, etc., of these hosted Office 2.0 apps that will drive users to switch because the benefits of outwheigh the benfits of the bells and whistles.
Ishamel claims that he hasn’t used Microsoft Office and hasn’t had a document file on his desktop for 9 months. Wow! I'm going to have to give some of these services a try.
Comparing the Companies
WetPaint (presented by CEO Ben Elowitz)
- WetPaint is for clubs, hobbies, fans, etc., who are looking for ways to collaborate and create an online community
- This is a huge market opportunity representing billions of pageviews per month (note to folks to start-ups trying to get funding, data points like this are important to investors)
- Ben did an excellent job of positioning WetPaint against blogs, social networking sites, and existing wikis. In essence, WetPaint enables non-techies to share personal experiences and create communities
- I was very impressed with the serivce. It was very fast (so many start-ups overlook this). The editing toolbar is very familiar and easy to use. No downlaods, flash, applets, etc.
- Some impressive features include how easy it is for users to add links and images. Even though I'm technical, I find that I sometimes forget the codes to use to do similar things when using a traditional wiki.
- WetPaint is free and add support. Ben did a nice demo. I didn't see any way for users to include audio/video. WetPaint seemed a little more consumer oriented that the other Office 2.0 companies.
- All the panelists commented on how nicely WetPaint is designed and executed (I totally agree). Sam commented that he couldn't find the site he created from the WetPaint homepage (I am not convinced this is a typical user scenario). Peter agrees the product is better than most others in the space, but stressed the need for WetPaint to gain distribution to grow the business. Wikia is considered the primary competitor (CEO is former eBay exec Gil Panchina).
Collective X (presented by CEO Clarence Wooten)
- CollectiveX was started to solve his own problems. He joined a social group and found that he couldn't take every single person out to lunch to understand the objectives and goals of other group members.
- Groups (alumni groups, professional groups, social groups) lack the tols to sustain and engage members
- The bio is auto-created as a result of answering some short questions.
- Key connections can be shared in a more private manner (unlike LinkedIn). For example, you know that some has a connection with a senior level executive at Motorola but you don't know exactly who
- Nice group calendar, nice design, good use of Ajax
- Base service is free, but premium features required a subscription
- Clarenced declined to disclose the number of paying custmers, but indicated they have thousands of groups and users
- Peter Rip thinks it is a well executed product. Really likes it. Thinks Google is a risk because they can pull together writely, gCal, etc., into a competing product
- Clarence indicated that CollectiveX isn't about real-time collaboration, and more about asynchronous coordination (A very good point)
- Echosign is all about using the Internet to solve the basic problem of 'signing documents'
- Works by sending Echosign email, which is turned into a PDF, then Echosign allows people to 'sign' the document. I think this service solves a problem I've personally delt with at Pluggd, but think the UI could be improved. It's bit complicated.
- Launched in January of 2006. 125 enterprise customers. Thousands of small business customers.
- Service is free when used for fax signature replacement
- $12.95 a month for the Pro version
- Entertrpise service provides visibility across groups of people. The Enterprise version starts at $20/sender per month
- Typical users are part of sales, HR, contracts administration, compliance
- Provides contract status visibility to sales managers across their teams
- HR departments use it for offer letter signatures
- My laptop battery died, so my notes here are a bit light
- Zoho offers a suite of hosted productivity applications across document creation, presentation creation, spreadsheets, CRM, etc.
- The breadth of functionality available in the Zoho suite was incredible impressive. I was wondering how the heck a little start-up built out so much functionality so quickly. I learned that Zoho is owned by a large company (400+ people) that writes network management software, and Zoho is a project within that company. Apparently, they have over 100 people working on Zoho. Definately not a start-up in the typical sense.
- Components and data are easily shared across documents. For example, a chart can be easily created using their presentation software and used in a document created by their MS Word replacement service.
- What I find amazing is how drop-dead simple this was to do with Zoho, while I am somtimes driven to pulling my hair out when trying to use Office products to do this.
- It gets better, with Zoho, updates to a component (e.g. a chart) are automagically updated in any document that referrences the component. Another thing MS Office can't easily do.
- Zoho included scripting functionality. This was pretty impressive, although I'm not sure how much it is really going to be used.
- Overall, I left thinking I should give Zoho's software a shot.