Linux has been trying hard to crack the desktop market for long. Being an open source evangelist, I do admit that it didn’t gain much traction in the desktop era dominated by Microsoft. There are many reasons for this including
  • Unpolished UI
  • Lack of support for some of the consumer devices like webcam, printer, etc.
  • More importantly, lack of availability of a good office suite comparable to Microsoft Office. Well, Open Office did a decent job of filling the gap but not many were ok with it
Fast forward a few years and we are in cloud computing era now. Users are getting used to applications delivered as a service and many are realizing that the bloated Microsoft Office suite is too feature rich for their everyday use. Many are contended with the SaaS Office Suite like Google Docs, Zoho Office Suite (disclaimer: Zoho is the sole sponsor of this blog and this post is written independently using some information made available by a Canonical developer), Thinkfree, etc.. More importantly, SaaS era is making operating system irrelevant. We are seeing a shift in the users’ thinking on operating systems too. The proliferation of netbooks brought Linux to the desks laps of many users and this trend is only going to continue further and further.
Yesterday Jamie Bennett, an Ubuntu developer from Canonical Inc., made a blog post that explained how users can integrate Zoho Office Suite into their Ubuntu desktop. They have a package available on their repository which will integrate Zoho Office suite into Ubuntu desktop. On the SaaS Office Suite front, I like both Google Docs and Zoho Suite (disclaimer: Zoho is the sponsor of this blog but this is based on my experience as an user) and Mr. Bennett has given reasons about why they chose Zoho over Google docs.
First off, why Zoho and not, for instance, Google Docs. Both services offer great functionality and are very competitive but the ultimate decision came down to which suited our use case the most. What we wanted was for a user to double click on a document which would then seamlessly open ready for editing. From there the user would edit, read, and maybe even save it back to the local device. No fuss, no logging in, no other requirements, just open and get on with it. Similary, when a user launches the application on its own, we wanted the correct type of service to open ready for the user to concentrate on their document. The service that allowed us to do this was Zoho. Zoho allows the user to do all of this without ever registering or logging in. Of course you get online storage with Zoho if you do register, but if you choose not to you can still get a full featured experience.
This is a pretty interesting move on many fronts. If this gains traction, we can see more and more adoption of Ubuntu on desktops. With OpenOffice.org coming under Oracle, this will give Linux users a chance to move away from Open Office. Having a light footprint helps convince users to move away from Open Office too. As more and more people embrace such SaaS applications from Linux desktops, we may even see businesses embracing both SaaS and Linux desktops instead of Microsoft Windows OS and their Office Suite. With Microsoft planning for a semi-cloud push with their Office Suite, a marriage between SaaS applications and a Linux distribution like Ubuntu is very useful. It will be interesting to see how these trends play out.
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Krishnan Subramanian

Krish dons several avatars including entrepreneur in exile, analyst cum researcher, technology evangelist, blogger, ex-physicist, social/political commentator, etc.. My main focus is research and analysis on various high impact topics in the fields of Open Source, Cloud Computing and the interface between them. I also evangelize Open Source and Cloud Computing in various media outlets, blogs and other public forums. I offer strategic advise to both Cloud Computing and Open Source providers and, also, help other companies take advantage of Open Source and Cloud Computing. In my opinion, Open Source commoditized software and Cloud Computing commoditized computing resources. A combination of these two developments offers a strong competitive advantage to companies of all sizes and shapes. Due to various factors, including fear, the adoption of both Open Source and Cloud Computing are relatively slow in the business sector. So, I take it upon myself to clear any confusion in this regard and educate, enrich and advise users/customers to take advantage of the benefits offered by these technologies. I am also a managing partner in two consulting companies based in India. I blog about Open Source topics at http://open.krishworld.com and Cloud Computing related topics at http://www.cloudave.com.

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