In the world of software as a service (SAAS), Zoho provides serious competition to Google Apps. Zoho provides a rich suite of web-based apps, from document creation, spreadsheets, databases and even HR and accounting. And now, their web-based chat app Zoho Chat 2.0 adds features that make it a serious alternative to Meebo and eBuddy.
Zoho Chat 2.0 is integrated with a range of Zoho products, but the most significant update is support for multi-protocol instant messaging. Now Zoho Chat supports AIM, ICQ, Yahoo! Messenger, MSN (Windows Live Messenger), Google Talk and Jabber in addition to their own Zoho network.
I tested the integration with Zoho Meeting, which allows multi-point desktop sharing, and it worked very well without any software downloads or special configuration. Zoho has also provided ways to embed Zoho Chat into your blog or website to chat with visitors or provide live customer support.
While the multi-protocol IM support leads to obvious comparisons to Meebo and eBuddy, Zoho is clearly targeting SOHO and enterprise business. This could be a real plus for companies looking to plug IM functionality into an existing enterprise social network, wiki or blog without requiring them to built-from-scratch. It allows Zoho to establish a presence in a market where the other players seem more interested in the consumer or entertainment world. Will the strategy pay off? Only time will tell. But for now, web workers everywhere win.