Box (see previous CloudAve coverage), formerly known as Box.Net, continues to push hard on gaining enterprise marketshare. Today they announced a newer version of iPad app that includes not only some of the recently announced #newbox features but also additional security measures aimed squarely at the enterprise customers. Box is trying to project themselves as sexy but enterprise grade. Whether it will stick and get them the much needed traction among the enterprise customers is something we have to wait and see.
Can enterprise software be sexy?
Box.net CEO, Aaron Levie, is bullish on enterprise software’s sex appeal and there are other traditionalists who tend to think that all that glitters are not gold enterprise worthy. I tend to be on the side of modernists and I feel that enterprise software can be sexy. I know that analysts covering enterprise space will pounce on me for using the term sexy in the context of enterprise software. When I say enterprise software is sexy, I am not talking about the bells and whistles that makes consumer software attractive. For me, sexy means better user experience, rapid innovation and use of modern technologies while still maintaining enterprise grade security, scalability and robustness. I don’t see any reason why these two seemingly different set of attributes to not co-exist in any software.
Today’s workforce have a different attitude and expectations compared to yesterday’s employees. As more and more younger people enter the workforce, we will be seeing different set of demands than what we saw in the previous decades. Enterprises will have no choice but to meet these demands. Enterprises can embrace modern day applications without compromising on their traditional needs like security, scalability, robustness, etc.. The changing enterprise landscape is going to put the spotlight on companies like Box, Salesforce, Google, Yammer, etc. and push them to innovate not just on the side of usability, mobility, etc. but also in ensuring enterprise grade security, reliability, etc..
Box’s strong push in the enterprise market
After giving an initial impression that they are focussing on consumers and SMBs, Box switched gears and started focussing on enterprise customers. They made the right set of noises including emphasis on security, talk about unlimited capacity, mobility, 99.9% uptime, etc.. Instead of talking storage, they started projecting themselves as a modern alternative to Sharepoint. They cleverly exploited the user frustration with the stagnation on Sharepoint that existed till recently. Even after Sharepoint’s attempted reincarnation as a software suitable for modern enterprises, Box could still convince customers that they needed a change.
In the mean time, Box also revamped their service with a redesign and some really cool features tailor made for enterprise users. In January 2011, they launched the #newbox with features like
- Tighter integration with content
- Folder based discussions putting emphasis on context. I have been using #newbox for almost a month now and this is extremely useful for my team
- Real-time updates
- Menu reorganization to give easy access to frequently used controls
- More simplified admin control targeted towards enterprise IT admin
- Clutter-free UI aimed at increased efficiency
These features and their feature rich iOS and Android apps made Box very attractive for many modern enterprise customers. Today’s update of their iPad app makes them even more palatable for security conscious enterprises.
Some of the new features in the updated iPad app includes:
- Locking with 4 digit password and auto-logout when the application is closed
- SSO login using PingFederate and Google Apps Enterprise identities
- Video out to project content directly from iPad to TV
- Wireless printing through Air Print
Even though Box has been pushing hard in the enterprise space, it is not going to be a cakewalk for them. They have already got some enterprise customers and I am sure many more are going to join their service in the future but they have a long way to go before they can establish themselves as a dominant player in the enterprise space. It may be easy for them to convince modern enterprises without big investments on Sharepoint but getting existing Sharepoint customers to defect is going to be difficult. With Microsoft’s increased vigor in pushing newer version of Sharepoint and their plans for a cloud based Sharepoint service, enterprise customers are not going to be easily swayed by Box’s sex appeal alone.
For companies like Box to succeed with enterprises in a big way, they have to impress the customers on the price advantage, mobile advantage and security. Box already has the price advantage going for them and from what I hear about their mobile strategy, I am pretty convinced that they have got mobile strategy straight. In fact, they have already identified Honeycomb as the tablet OS for business and I have also heard about their plans for Android in the past. I definitely expect them to go big on their mobile strategy. That makes security critical to their long term success. If they can convince enterprises on security, we can definitely see them chipping away Sharepoint users in the future.
They also face competition from Huddle in the enterprise space. Right now, Box appear to have an edge in the North American market but Huddle is definitely increasing their visibility in this market. It will be interesting to see how the competition shapes up between these two modern enterprise software providers.
Even though sexy enterprise software appears to be counter intuitive, we are going to see increase in the adoption of modern day applications inside the enterprises. Box is pushing hard to gain considerable traction in the space. They have taken some steps in the right direction but they need to do more to convince enterprise customers to defect from Sharepoint. We will see in the next few years if they succeed in their journey. Box is definitely a company I am going to keep tab in the coming years.
Disclosure: Box paid for my travel to attend an event organized by them in the past. But I am a paying premium customer of Box.