Business Apps on the Web

According to industry experts, the number of Web sites offering online access to business applications is poised to balloon from just more than 100 to several thousand. One of the most recent additions is Zoho Marketplace.

Zoho Marketplace is an office productivity suite from AdventNet Inc. that not only offers online access to business applications, but also connects businesses with freelance developers to allow for customized solutions.

“There are not many vendors — if any — except Microsoft who offer messaging, productivity, collaboration and business apps under a single umbrella,” said Raju Vegesna, Zoho evangelist. “This can be really powerful when we integrate all these pieces together.”

The marketplace is popular with end users for its prices and with developers because they receive 100 percent of the fees charged for the solutions they create. More than 130,000 applications have been designed in Zoho Creator, though only a subset are available on the marketplace as most have been developed for proprietary use.

Vegesna said that customer relationship management, invoicing, human resources and other online applications represent the future of business apps.

“If we are talking about apps built on platforms, I think it is going to a decent market — a market which is not too small to ignore and not too big to run a company on it,” he said. “For this, something like Zoho Marketplace is ideal. [It] kind of runs by itself.”

The market for business Web applications also is growing and changing, said Clive Longbottom, service director of business process analysis at Quocirca Ltd., an IT consultancy in Berkshire, England.

“It all started — early computer usage tended to be on a time-share basis, which was essentially an online apps model — with systems such as e-mail, payroll and expense claiming, and was brought to the mainstream with the likes of Salesforce.com, RightNow, Netsuite and so on,” he said. “Now we have Google, Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, SAP and so on all vying for space here, and we can expect the likes of Apple to also go for it for the iPhone.”

The current recession likely will only build the Zoho Marketplace community, Vegesna said.

“When a good app is available for a good price, people will move away, ditching expensive software,” he said.

Kelly Shermach is a freelance writer based in Chicago, who frequently writes about technology and data security. She can be reached at editor (at) certmag (dot) com.

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