Zoho, the web office company that competes with Google's online tools (and does so quite well), has introduced a new feature to their online suite of productivity applications: Zoho Chat 2.0. Built atop the original Zoho Chat platform, this iteration now integrates all the major instant messaging networks. But a multi-protocol IM client is not the big news - it's the fact that Zoho Chat 2.0 is integrated within the majority of the company's applications to allow for real-time collaboration with colleagues.

In Zoho Chat 2.0, you now have the ability to connect with others - both Zoho users and not - on IM networks like Yahoo!, Google Chat, MSN/Windows Live, AIM, ICQ, and any network that supports Jabber. The chat application itself can be launched from within nearly every Zoho online application with the exception of Creator, Share, Invoice, and Database & Reports. But when you look at the list of apps, you can see there are far more that have chat than those that don't. The particular apps that lack this feature are also not generally the types of programs where much collaboration is needed...if any at all.

The new Zoho Chat 2.0 is no dumbed-down client. It offers most of the features that you have come to expect from your IM desktop applications. You can send files, record your chat history, customize your theme, and more - just like regular IM apps allow. It does a few cool tricks, too. For example, you can type in a new event in the chat bar at the bottom of Zoho Calendar to create a new appointment on the fly. In Zoho Meeting, you can launch desktop sharing with others from within the IM application. (Windows only for now.)

The chat tool is also able to send you notifications from activities that take place within Zoho itself, including document sharing notifications, unread chat messages and more - definitely a handy feature. Future releases for chat include plans to introduce even more IM networks, most notably Skype.

This release represents a major upgrade of the chat application in Zoho. Current Zoho users can try Chat 2.0 here as of today: chat.zoho.com.