Zoho continues to shadow rivals Google and Salesforce.com, Sept. 30 announcing Zoho Marketplace, a place where programmers can buy and sell applications created with Zoho Creator.
Users can also post their application requirements in the Zoho Marketplace, letting developers bid to develop that particular application. If a user is partial to an application, he or she may buy it from the developer and install it in a Zoho account.
Developers don't have to wait for a request; they may write Web applications and post them in the Marketplace without paying AdventNet's Zoho a dime for the service. Buyers and sellers can negotiate their prices and execute transactions at their leisure.
"In short, just like you can buy 'stuff' in Amazon or eBay, you can also get your business applications in Zoho Marketplace," Zoho spokesperson Rodrigo Vaca wrote in a blog post.
There are currently applications for sales, marketing and IT management, among others. Some of the applications were created by Zoho; others were written by third-party programmers.
Zoho Creator applications in the Marketplace feature user ratings and reviews, and brief metadata about their purpose, including who built the application, how many people have installed it and how much the author is charging for it.
Many of the applications currently happen to be free, always a nice touch when a company is proffering a new service. What I like is that users can "test drive" the application in real time with no obligations thereafter, according to a video demonstration from Vaca.
It's Zoho's eBay for applications, but Zoho Marketplace also apes Salesforce.com's AppExchange. I like the idea but I have mixed feelings about the potential. Part of me thinks Salesforce.com will wipe the floor with Zoho.
AppExchange boasts 40,000 installations of some 800 applications, and while Zoho claims more than 100,000 apps have been built with Creator, ReadWriteWeb says only 300 currently exist on Zoho Marketplace.
On the flip side, there is an ever-present feeling among some folks that Salesforce.com is too expensive, too proprietary, and those are the developers and customers Zoho is going for.
If enough people embrace Zoho's "less evil" approach, Zoho Marketplace will take off and Zoho will gain some real application momentum at Salesforce.com's expense.
Of course, with its hands-off approach to Zoho Marketplace, letting buyers and sellers dictate terms, it is unclear how Zoho will profit from this approach. I wonder about that with Zoho often; like Google, the company seems to give so much away.
However, while I know that Google gets its coin from search advertising, it's not clear that Zoho has a viable model on which to keep doling out free services, or at least charging next to nothing for them. Maybe just gaining momentum and market share is the goal for Zoho in the near term.
To support Zoho Marketplace, Zoho launched the Zoho Creator Partner Program, which allows resellers, consultants, developers and other users to distribute applications and actually resell Zoho Creator itself. Partners will earn money from the software they develop and receive commissions paid for the licenses bought from Zoho.
Zoho also issued Zoho Creator 3.0, which continues to let users create applications with drag and drop utilities.
Vaca in the demo video showed how to build an event registration application by dragging and dropping and clicking, and also showed how the app can be embedded in a Web site via cut and paste.
For more details on the new Zoho Creator 3.0 features, read this post and view this video from Vaca.