You’ve got to hand it to box.net (read about ‘em here), fresh from their last campaign which squarely put them head to head with Microsoft (see the evidence here) Box is today announcing that it is launching an application on the salesforce.com app exchange.
While this may be a seemingly boring announcements, digging deeper into what it means for the future is much more interesting. Currently there are hundreds of organizations around the world ties to a sharepoint/Dynamics CRM platform. A platform that while (arguably) “robust” is expensive and hugely inflexible – I work with a technology company that uses just this set up, while I’ll admit it displays Ray Ozzie’s favorite feature “fidelity” that fidelity has such a wide footprint that I get frustrated doing even the simplest of tasks.
Enter stage left box.net who, with their salesforce integration, is setting themselves up to be a credible competitor to the Microsoft legacy. Salesforce users will be able to access all content in box.net, seamlessly and, most importantly, painlessly – they’ll be able to set up files and folders and assign access permissions – simple concepts made difficult in sharepoint.
User who are both box customers and salesforce customers will have unlimited storage, another reminder of how cloud based solutions unlock the constraints of the past. The video below shows how it works functionally;
Beyond the basic functionality however, this more is interesting because it’s an example of how close we’re coming to an on-demand alternative to the sharepoint stable. I spoke to Jen Grant, VP of Marketing for box.net and asked her how they see themselves differentiating in what is a reasonably busy space. She was pretty focused on what she sees as the direction for them saying that they’re “not trying to be the Swiss army knife of solutions”. Rather they want to differentiate based on their ease of use, and the difference they bring through search.
Anyone who has used box.net will vouch for its ease-of-use, and the search features they have (search works across and inside all content items on box.net) are truly valuable. However much of the “secret sauce’ comes from what I’ll call “search, sans search”. Being web based, and leveraging the aggregate information they draw from users behaviors, box.net is able to serve up context-sensitive information to users. An example of this would be a sales agent finding a new customer pricelist being served up information that customarily goes hand-in-hand with that actions (credit application forms perhaps, or customized welcome emails).
Jen and I also talked about the barriers to adoption, the same arguments all of us in this space hear on a daily basis, the concerns about security, reliability etc etc. Jen and I agreed that a two prong approach is necessary. On the one hand vendors need to target those organization that are likely to “get it” without the irrational fears. Secondly, and together as an industry, we need to ensure that we all articulate the right messages. Lastly, and most importantly, vendors need to do everything in their power to ensure their offerings are completely robust – to this end box.net will be SAS70 certified in the coming months – another security blanket for corporate IT.
IN these early stages, box.net’s alliance with salesforce will be a real credibility boost for box. Salesforce is, after all, the biggest SaaS player in town. Going forwards however it’ll be vendors like box.net, that provide the “hub of the wheel” that are seen as preeminent, the spokes out the side, in the way of distinct business applications, will leverage what the central core provides.
Bring it on!
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