Box is hosting its third annual BoxWorks conference in San Francisco this week. One of the big announcements out of BoxWorks is the launch of a new service from Box called Box Notes.
Box has been built around the idea that people should be able to access and share content from anywhere. It now counts more than 20 million users spanning over 180,000 businesses around the world, all storing and sharing data online through Box. Now, Box is going a step further, adding the ability to create and collaborate on content, too.
Microsoft Office is the de facto productivity suite—anchored in large part by Microsoft Word. Microsoft Word is an exceptionally powerful content creation platform. In fact, it’s so powerful that it contains many elements of its sibling applications, including a wide range of features normally reserved for spreadsheet, database, and presentation software.
There is very little that Microsoft Word can’t do, and for many people, that’s what’s wrong with it. What if you only want to create a simple document? Do you really need the hundreds of features and options available in Microsoft Word? Probably not. The fact that they are even there just adds unnecessary complexity.
I like Microsoft Word. Next to Outlook and my Web browser, it’s probably the most-used software on my computer. But, even I—someone who makes a living using Microsoft Word—don’t really know what the vast majority of the features do, and have little or no need to learn them. I just type words, and maybe apply a little basic formatting here and there.
Box agrees. Box claims that the tools used today—not just Microsoft Word—overshoot the basic needs of most users. That’s why it developed Box Notes. Box Notes is a simple, online content creation tool that lets a user, or group of users, create simple content.
Aaron Levie, co-founder and CEO of Box, explained the motivation behind Box Notes in a press release. “As business becomes increasingly fast-paced, fluid and mobile, the very nature of information is changing, and the tools businesses use to capture that information need to evolve. To unlock the collective knowledge of organizations, Box needs to not only be a place where people can store and share content, but also a place where they can create and capture ideas in real-time across teams.”
Multiple users can edit the content concurrently in real-time. The profile picture of each user appears on the left side of the display next to the line they’re currently working on. Users can edit or annotate text, and leave comments within the note, or chat simultaneously to brainstorm, think out loud, and collaborate. Video and imagery can also be inserted into documents.
Box isn’t trying to become Microsoft Word. In fact, Box isn’t even trying to become Google Docs. Box has an alliance with Google Docs, and integrates Google Docs capabilities so users can create, view, and edit documents from directly within Box. I spoke with Chris Yeh, senior VP of Platform and Product for Box, and he assured me that the alliance with Google will continue, and that Box Notes is not intended to usurp Google Docs.
Although the whole point is to keep it simple and not let feature bloat get in the way of sharing good ideas, Box does intend to build in some additional functionality in the short term. Box will integrate Box Notes with its iOS and Android mobile apps, and plans to add in version history and offline editing for Box Notes in the near future.
Initially, Box Notes is being offered only as a limited-access private beta. If you’d like to participate, you can sign up at www.box.com/notes.
Tony is principal analyst with the Bradley Strategy Group, providing analysis and insight on tech trends. He is a prolific writer on a range of technology topics, has authored a number of books, and is a frequent speaker at industry events.