For a while, it seemed like online productivity-apps startup Zoho was launching a new application every month — it now has a suite of 22 apps including email, word processing, and customer management.
But the constant stream of new releases slowed down in the last year, as the company focused on finding ways to make those apps work together, according to evangelist Raju Vegesna. The latest addition in that vein is a tool for searching across Zoho’s applications.
Zoho Search improves on other business search tools in two ways, Vegesna said — it’s universal and it’s actionable. By universal, he means users just go to search.zoho.com, type their query into a Google-style search bar, and they can see the results from Zoho Mail, Docs, Writer, Sheet, Show, Notebook, Contacts, Discussions, and Organization Contacts, with more apps promised to follow. That’s much easier than the more common experience with online business apps, where users have to search each application separately.
“It kind of grows out of our own requirements,” Vegesna said. “Let’s say I’m searching for a customer — why should I pick which applciation I have to go to in order to look for them?”
Users will also be able to perform basic tasks within the search application itself, rather than having to jump from search to another app. Vegesna demonstrated this for me last week. When you click on a search result, it opens as a separate tab within the search tool. So if you find an email from a coworker, you can read that email, reply to it, and chat with them if they’re logged into Zoho. Users can also view documents, presentations, spreadsheets, and notebooks.
One reason Zoho offers a tool like this while competitors don’t, Vegesna said, is that a company like Salesforce.com is not a search company. Of course, one big competitor has plenty of search expertise: Google, which bundles business tools like Gmail and Google Docs under the name Google Apps. Google could probably build a similar search experience across its apps, but offers a smaller range of tools compared to Zoho. In fact, Google Enterprise President Dave Girouard has said that Google will “probably never” build a business-only app, and will instead integrate its consumer-friendly tools with those from more business-focused companies like Zoho.
Zoho is based in Pleasanton, Calif. and has nearly 3 million users.