If you're an up-and-coming cloud storage provider, you may have all the seamless integration tools with desktops, tablets and smartphones, as well as secure and encrypted storage features. But that's no longer enough: the golden path to cloud nirvana for storage providers is the addition of live collaboration features for stored documents.
It's a path that Box has announced it will be taking today, with the private beta launch of its Box Notes tool.
Though the messaging from Box is focused on the creation and sharing of ideas, they're not really fooling anyone about the document-centric nature of the new tool, which from the looks of the demo video appears to be a smoother, streamlined version of Google Docs, with a little Facebook iconography thrown in for that social/cool effect.
The video even takes a pot shot at Box's real target: the collaborative tools found within Microsoft Office—specifically Word.
Box has a particularly good chance to build a user base with this tool, especially given its recent push into higher education and the enterprise. But it may have a time limit on how long it has to make inroads.
Office Is Still A Moving Target
Office, particularly its current Office 365 incarnation, seems to be fair game for all sorts of cloud service vendors of late, perhaps because the cloud is being seen as the great playing-field leveler with the dominant Microsoft office suite.
Box Notes looks to have a simple and integrated experience, which would indeed be an improvement on Office 365 and Google Docs, though how things work in a demo and how they work in reality can be entirely different.
Also, the Box Notes editing does not appear to have a lot in the way of tools, which adopts the simple approach other collaboration tools have taken—an approach that seems to be creating a dichotomy in many businesses offices, where collaborative tools will be used for just collaboration, but the finished formatting will still be done in Microsoft Office.
In a way, this is reflective of the practices of the mid 1990s, when many more documents were created in office suites, then finished up in desktop publishing programs.
It is easy to point to services like Box Notes and Google Docs and claim they are disruptive for Microsoft Office. But if Office is used anyway at some point in the process, then what's really getting disrupted? At some point, collaborative editors will need to get more robust editing tools if they want to really knock Office off the top of the hill.
Don't count on Microsoft lagging behind in collaboration and social tools for very long, though; Redmond is making big strides in this area and once they figure it out, vendors like Box may lose their shot.