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Zoho, a provider of Web-based software for collaboration and enterprise applications, has upgraded its customer relationship management (CRM) software with Google Calendar synchronization, integration with business social network LinkedIn (NASDAQ:LNKD) and other features to boost user productivity.

While (NYSE:CRM) commands the lion’s share of large CRM installations in the cloud, Zoho is the scrappy underdog punching the market leader from below. Zoho CRM enjoys 5.5 million users, spanning 25,000 business customers, most of which are in the small to medium size range.

Even so, Zoho Evangelist Raju Vegnesa claimed Zoho is poaching 10 customers from a day, thanks to its integration with Google Apps collaboration software and low cost compared with Zoho CRM costs $12 per user per month for the professional version and $25 per user per month for its enterprise version.

The new Zoho CRM boasts a new user interface, which users may compare to the old interface here. Note that while the exiting UI has a busy left-hand rail for the home and contact screens, the new UI moves a lot of that functionality to the top tool menu.

Vegnesa said the redesign is intended to help users boost their productivity at a time when information is abundant and time is precious. To wit, Zoho also added a new Pulse module that lets users follow specific deals, contacts or accounts just as they might follow contacts on Twitter or Google+.

Using Pulse, which is available for professional and enterprise edition users, a CEO could follow a deal that could have an impact on his quarterly results. Following that deal will keep him updated on the deal’s evolution.

The rapid access to information Pulse enables is crucial to business leaders. Of course, such a feature could also produce a lot of noise if a CEO is following a lot of accounts, deals or contacts. That’s why Pulse provides rules that users may set to control information they receive alerts to.

Zoho CRM also now allows users to link a contact’s profile with their LinkedIn profile, a no-brainer feature that should have been available when Zoho launched CRM a few years ago.

This integration will help users keep tabs on business and professional activity, even allowing them to send direct LinkedIn messages without leaving Zoho CRM. Users may also search for another user’s profile. LinkedIn integration is available now for all users.

Moreover, the CRM app now supports bidirectional synchronization with Google Calendar, which means changes users make to the Calendar app will show up in Zoho CRM if they are made from Google Apps and vice versa. Google Calendar sync is available for paid users.

For users of its enterprise edition of CRM, Zoho has integrated its drag-and-drop Zoho Creator app development tool to let users build custom apps that appear inside the CRM application and access data from the CRM system.

Vegnesa said that a user might build a custom travel app that appears within the CRM and can rake in information from various modules within the CRM. This integration is available for enterprise edition users only.

Zoho has come a long way in the last several years, hacking at the knees of and Google Apps simply by targeting smaller businesses looking to move their collaboration and business software online.

What’s surprising is that the company has not been acquired by SAP (NYSE:SAP), Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL) or some other enterprise giant looking to gain a broad swath of technology to better compete with Google and in cloud computing for businesses.

Of course, mergers and acquisitions in the cloud have heated up of late, with Oracle buying RightNow Technologies and SAP targeting SuccessFactors, so Zoho could be targeted in 2012.

To read the original eWeek article, click here: Zoho CRM Gets Google Calendar Sync, LinkedIn Integration