Hulu did it for video, and Spotify did it for music. Now Roozz is hoping to do the same thing for software: bring it to the cloud, in a hosted, pay-as-you-need-it format. Roozz End User (free) is slickly designed and mostly easy to use, but, for now, at least, it's a bit hampered by a limited title selection and a few technical glitches.
To use Roozz, you simply point your browser to Roozz.com. The company says it works with all available browsers; I tested it on IE, Firefox, and Chrome. You'll need to go to Roozz End User tab (as opposed to Roozz Developers, which is for software vendors who want to rent out their wares). From there, you install a small plugin, and you'll be able to run any of the available applications right in your browser. You can scan Roozz's list of available applications at the site, where they're neatly listed by category. Hovering your mouse over the titles shows you a brief description of the application, and the rental fee if there is one.
Many of the titles on Roozz are available for free, but some are available for rental only. The prices, which are set in per-day, per-week, or even per-year fees, seem very affordable. Some titles cost 99 cents for a week, while others are less than $4 per day. The most expensive title I saw in a quick scan was "Senior Profil," a game demo that cost $25 for a three-month rental. Prices are determined by the software publishers, but Roozz says it has offered input on pricing, as this rental model is somewhat new.
Roozz's selection of titles is a bit limited: As of this writing, the company claims approximately 160 title. for rent. The company is planning to expand its catalog, saying it expects its library to reach 300 titles in 2013 and "upwards of 1000" in 2014. The current library includes a whole host of titles I'd never seen or heard of, but that doesn't mean it doesn't include some worthy applications, including titles like Audacity, Irfanview, and Xmind.
Roozz features several apps that fit with its rental model, as they're the kinds of applications you may only need to use once or twice, so renting them makes more sense than buying them. For example, you can rent ConvertXtDVD, an application for burning videos to DVDs, for $12.38 for a one-week rental period. If you'd like to buy the application, it will cost you $45. Similarly, Roozz rents Able2Doc PDF to Word Converter for $6.61 per day. If you'd like to buy the application, which converts PDFs to editable Word documents, you'd have to shell out $50.
Launching an application through Roozz involves little more than double-clicking a title, accepting the EULA, and paying for the software when necessary. (Payments can be done through PayPal or a credit card.) In all, the process is quick and easy, much more so than downloading an application and installing it on your hard drive. I did encounter one technical glitch when launching apps, though: When using Internet Explorer on a Windows 7 PC, I was unable to launch some of the applications. Clicking on the titles would simply open a blank browser window. But when using Chrome on that same computer, the software applications opened without a problem. And when tested on Internet Explorer on another Windows 7 PC, the applications worked flawlessly. Roozz says it is looking into what may have caused my particular problem, and notes that while they have seen it before, it is "quite rare."
Overall, using the applications in my browser window felt no different from running similar titles on my desktop. The response time was quick, with no noticeable lag--a far cry from when I first tested software-as-a-service products many years ago, when titles seemed to run at dial-up-like speeds even over broadband connections.
Roozz has plenty of promise. It's a bit hampered right now by its limited application selection, but that should improve with time. If it does, and the company can eliminate the technical glitches, Roozz could be a software force to be reckoned with.
This story, "Roozz rents software in the cloud" was originally published by PCWorld.