Web-based office suites adding features

Why the whole idea of purely browser-based applications is still rife with gotchas

I'm back for the second day of the Office 2.0 conference on Web-based productivity. More notes on what's happening:

AdventNet, whose Zoho line of browser-based productivity tools are among the most highly-evolved ones around, launched Zoho Virtual Office, a communications/collaboration service with scads of features -- e-mail, a calendar, contacts, tasks, instant messaging, and more. Between this new offering and Zoho's word processor, spreadsheet, presentation tool, and other services, this little company probably has the closest thing to a true full-blown, browser-based Microsoft Office rival so far.

However, Zoho and several of its competitors did live demos for attendees yesterday that didn't go that well because the network here at the St. Regis Hotel suddenly decided to get sluggish and bursty--a problem which wouldn't faze Microsoft Office a bit, but which choked the browser-based upstarts.

More real-world woes: ThinkFree's demo involved GMail, and, amazingly, GMail happened to be down at the moment that the ThinkFree folks were trying to grab an attachment to work with in their online suite. Which wouldn't have been an issue if the e-mail application in question was a traditional, unglamorous thick client like Outlook.

This isn't definitive proof that God likes yanking the chain of Silicon Valley startups. But it did mean that Office 2.0 has been both an inspiring showcase for all the interesting things happening with Web applications, and an effective demonstration of why the whole idea of purely browser-based applications is still rife with gotchas...

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Harry McCracken

PC World
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