Zoho is getting into the business social-networking game with a new product called Pulse, which also ties back to many of its other applications.
Pulse features the now-familiar mix of activity streams, private messaging, notifications, blogs, groups and people search functionality familiar to anyone who's been within striking distance of both consumer social networks like Facebook and the many offerings for business, such as Yammer and Jive.
It also features applications for iPhone and Android devices, with iPad coming later. The applications are native to the devices but have some components that use HTML5, said Zoho evangelist Raju Vegesna.
It's integrated with Zoho's Calendar, Chat, Discussions, Docs and People products, as well as the Creator database application development tool. The last feature gives companies the ability to embed custom applications inside Pulse.
Pulse's look and feel is remarkably similar to Facebook from a user-interface perspective, based on a demonstration Zoho provided.
This lack of originality isn't a bad thing, according to Vegesna. "The familiarity becomes a feature," he said. "There's no learning curve for the user. It's good for IT because they don't have to take care of the training."
Pulse is available now in multiple versions, starting with a Free Edition at no charge, followed by a Professional Edition that costs US$2 per user per month. The Enterprise Edition costs $5 per user per month and includes the Creator integration. The mobile applications come with all three versions.
While Pulse is going to be probably the biggest announcement Zoho makes this year, according to Vegesna, the company is also unveiling two other products at its user conference this week in San Francisco.
They include Zoho Vault, a password management application, as well as Zoho Leads, which gives workers at trade shows and other events the ability to scan attendees' name badges with their mobile phones. The information is then automatically uploaded to Zoho CRM's lead management module.
Zoho Leads supports the QR (quick response) code format. If a badge doesn't use QR, the application can capture name and title data with OCR (optical character recognition). Leads gives companies a lower-cost way to collect lead information compared to the specialized hardware devices commonly used today, according to Vegesna.