Deals

Box.net looks to keep it simple with new version of cloud storage software

Enterprise cloud storage provider Box.net is launching a new version of its software that includes a front-facing interface built from scratch and additional mobile features, the company announced today.

The new Box.net interface is a mash-up of micro-blogging activity streams like FriendFeed and online storage like Dropbox. Box users can drag and drop files from their computer directly onto the site to send files into cloud storage. There are also folders that are synched up directly with the cloud, like Dropbox, that automatically update files as they are changed.

Users can preview those files directly within Box.net — and the software supports a lot of file formats. Box developer Kim Lockhart showed off the capabilities by opening up Adobe Illustrator files within the web interface and previewing other files from Photoshop and the like. Whenever any file is viewed, commented on or changed, Box.net users get an update on their activity feed.

“This basically kills the software problem,” Lockhart said. “You can view files like illustrator files and pretty much anything else as we move forward without ever having to have the software.”

The idea was to remake the front-facing application from scratch because it was becoming too complicated with too many features. Box.net released a new update just about every week last year and added more and more features, and that was clouding up the service and making it too complicated for some end users, said Box.net CEO Aaron Levie. While Box is mainly focused on the enterprise, Levie said Box had plenty of potential in the consumer space — to compete with cloud storage providers like Dropbox and the like.

The new version of the cloud storage service will also include an app marketplace that includes other cloud-based applications, like NetSuite and Salesforce, that can sync up with Box.net. The idea is to spread the applications virally by including notifications of co-workers adding applications and using them in each activity stream. Box.net is also expanding its relationships with VMWare, NetSuite and other companies to ramp up those applications.

Throughout the presentation, one Box.net employee in the crowd was adding photos and documents on the cloud storage provider’s demonstration account to show off the new mobile features. Box.net wants to focus on tablets — specifically Android tablets — in the future after seeing some pretty decent success on the iPad, Levie said. The Box.net application was downloaded more than 250,000 times on the iPad. But the company launched the Android application in the fourth quarter last year and already has 70,000 downloads. Box.net is working with Samsung specifically to further develop its application on Android tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Tab.

“The iPad really opened up the enterprise’s eyes with what was possible with mobile computing and tablet computing,” Levie said. “It’s not just about email, web applications, it’s actually about getting rich business tools on mobile devices.”

The software will roll out to Box.net’s customers over the next 30 days and launching today. For the first month, users can switch back and forth between the new and old interface. But after a certain period of time, only the new user interface will be available for Box.net users.