I get asked this question often, so I might as well address it. The “just” even betrays a sense of “That is such a waste of time”, though the questioner may be too polite to say it in so many words. Straight answer: No, we are not building “just” that, though that is not because we think MS Office is obsolete (quick, what software did you use to make your last presentation?) For one, an online productivity suite naturally can take advantage of its connected status, to provide much richer collaboration functionality. Features like real time collaborative editing, often used by students working on joint reports, just come in naturally. Presentations can just as easily be made to a remote audience as to a local one, as Zoho Show enables.

I believe the reason we, in particular, get asked that question is that we do aim for a fair degree of compatibility with MS Office in terms of features and functionality. We aim to blend in the web-connected features, while keeping what users are already familiar with. As an example, we exploit the easy, loose-coupled interactions possible between web services, to embed Zoho Sheet charts in Zoho Writer. But that comes in unobstrusively, a single button to embed HTML, and no big deal is made of it.

And as Zoho evolves, we are looking at new ideas, like blending in familiar spreadsheet-like interfaces to what are fundamentally database products, like Zoho Creator or Zoho Projects. The vision here is “one set of data, many ways of visualizing it”.

Yes, we acknowledge the inspiration from MS Office. But we also seek other sources of inspiration, from blogging to wikis to social networking, and our goal is to use these sources of inspiration to create something that starts off with the familiar, and then breaks new ground. Time will tell how well we succeed in this.