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Storage giant EMC is not a startup known for cutting-edge design. Which is why it’s interesting to watch EMC’s file-sync-and-share business, Syncplicity, push out a new version of its iPhone app as it competes with Dropbox, Box, and other young guns.
The revamped app debuts today, and Jeetu Patel, general manager of Syncplicity, looked pretty proud of it during a demo with VentureBeat. He showed off an easy way to flip through folders inside of folders; an interface for signing documents; a bunch of suggested actions; and pictures of people who have shared files, which can be useful for searching.
“It’s just they’re small delightful things we’ve done to really go out and kind of grab the imagination,” Patel said in an interview with VentureBeat.
Yes, Syncplicity does already stand out when it comes to security and deployment options, by virtue of its ability to store documents in public clouds and in companies’ on-premises data centers. But Patel has long spoken of user interface being important, and the new version of its iPhone app marks a new high.
“Were competing with consumer-based companies, and if we come across a stodgy enterprise company that still doesn’t care about user experience, I think it’s not going to make sense for the user, and you’re still not going to solve a fundamental problem enterprise software, which is that they haven’t paid attention for the last 20 years to making a delightful experience for the user.”
The iPhone app design draws to some extent on Syncplicity’s iPad app. But the thumb is the dominant finger when using an iPhone, while on the iPad the forefinger is the important one.
“How do you go out and reimagine how you can get more productive on the phone?” Patel said.
The resulting iPhone app, like Tinder and its myriad clones, relies on swipes from left to right and from right to left.
And indeed, it seems to let people do a lot of things while on the go. They can send reminders to people who haven’t opened up certain documents, find documents in several ways, jump easily through folders like you’d switch mobile browser tabs (see picture below), annotate documents, and swipe through pictures quickly.
The big takeaway is the app, with its long taps, blurred backgrounds, and rounded edges, doesn’t look like something from a company that last year brought in $3 billion in net income. And yet, that’s something neither Box nor Dropbox can say.
The challenge for EMC is to get companies big and small to sign up for its service, which can operate exclusively in public clouds, in companies’ own data centers, or both.
EMC bought Syncplicity in 2012. True Ventures backed Syncplicity before the acquisition. Patel first joined EMC in 2010.
Syncplicity customers include ActOn, the Boston Red Sox, and Hearthstone.
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