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IDG News Service - Box, the Silicon Valley darling that has disrupted enterprise cloud storage and file sharing, will broaden its scope into the content-creation space with a new online note-taking application.
Box Notes, to be unveiled on Monday at the company's BoxWorks conference in San Francisco, will provide a word processor-like interface where colleagues can add content to the document and co-edit it in real time.
The application, which will be a standard component of the Box product, is in a limited test release. Interested testers need to request access by signing up at Box.com/notes. The company is looking at next year for releasing it in final form.
"This is our first step into content creation and productivity [software]," said Chris Yeh, Box's senior vice president of product and platform.
The goal of Box Notes is to help people capture information and share it with others easily.
Box will likely develop more content creation and collaboration tools. As with Box Notes, it will try to make them in a way that they don't overwhelm users with an excess of features, Yeh said, echoing a common complaint against the Microsoft Office applications.
The move potentially opens another front in Box's competitive battle against titans like Google and Microsoft. Box's flagship cloud service competes against Google Drive and Microsoft's SkyDrive and SharePoint.
Box Notes sounds like it could be a rival to Microsoft's Word and OneNote, and to Google's Docs and Keep. Note-taking application vendors like Evernote also need to pay attention.
It could also be a differentiator for Box against file share and storage competitors.
However, Yeh said his company views it primarily as a tool designed to increase the value of its product for its customers.
"The starting notion is that within the Box environment this can serve as a self-contained, collaborative note-taking product that allows for notes to be securely stored," he said.
In July, Forrester Research ranked Box as the strongest vendor in the enterprise computing category the research firm calls File Sync & Share, ahead of offerings from players including EMC, IBM, Citrix, Dropbox, Google and Microsoft.
In its evaluation, Forrester took into account criteria like current support for mobile devices, deployment flexibility, administration controls, security features, sync capabilities, integration with third-party systems and document viewer capabilities. Forrester also factored in the vendors' strategy and how well it positions them for future improvements and growth, as well as their market presence.
A question is whether Box's foray into content creation tools will distract it from the laser-beam focus it has had on file sharing and cloud storage for businesses since its founding in 2005.
In other words: why mess with success? Box's product, which can be accessed from computer browsers and mobile apps for all major platforms, is now used in 180,000 businesses, including 97 percent of the Fortune 500, and by about 20 million people. The company said recently that it's on pace to more than double its revenue in its current fiscal year, after posting sales growth of more than 150 percent in the previous one. Box has raised more than US$300 million in funding from investors like Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Andreessen Horowitz. CEO and co-founder Aaron Levie has said he may take the company public next year or in 2015.