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SAN FRANCISCO — Box revealed this morning that it has been working on a simple notetaking application, dubbed Box Notes.
The press got wind of the announcement prior to the announcement at the Boxworks conference. Many reporters immediately jumped to the conclusion that Box must now be readying for a fight with giants like Google Docs, Microsoft Office, and Evernote.
Really? Google Docs is not under siege because a younger company released the equivalent of TextEdit in the cloud.
These companies have been building cloud-based content tools for years. Meanwhile, Box is focused on cloud storage and collaboration, and this is just a baby step into content creation.
Box Notes may prove to be a useful little feature for existing customers. But so far, it has only been adopted internally by Box employees, who use it to jot down notes.
The product is still in its beta test. Box plans to build out a few additional features, based on feedback from some of the first customers. This design strategy is typically often associated with early-stage consumer technology startups, not enterprise software companies.
In my view, more established giants should be threatened by Box, but not because the company made a minor product announcement.
Box Notes was intentionally developed with ease-of-use in mind. It’s a break from how enterprise companies have operated in the past. Microsoft and Oracle typically release feature-rich products to appeal to chief information officers. Their strategy is to throw in everything but the kitchen sink.
Box chief executive Aaron Levie believes that the real opportunity is enterprise applications that are developed with employees in mind — not just CIOs. He often says that mobile apps like Pinterest are far better designed than the vast majority of enterprise software tools, which is a huge problem.
“We spend our time on the user design side,” said Levie at BoxWorks today.
Box has enormous potential, because it is one of the few business software companies that is thinking like a consumer startup. Box is capable of developing tools like Box Notes in a matter of months, and testing them with customers to find out what sticks.
Levie refers to this product development process as a “train that is always moving.”
The Los Altos, Calif. based company has grown to hundreds of employees, but it still practices so-called agile development. According to vice president of engineering Sam Schillace, a full software service team of nearly 10 people is working to expedite engineering processes.
“We do daily releases,” Schillace told reporters at Boxworks. “We are constantly trying to improve the speed in which we develop new products.”
Meanwhile, the company’s revenues are strong, and it has raised over $150 million in venture capital.
Perhaps Box Notes won’t gain any real traction. Maybe it will prove to be a vital user acquisition tool. Levie stresses that the company will listen closely to its customers, and react accordingly. “The software you’ll see in the enterprise needs to be far easier to use,” he recently said.
So Box is a threat to Microsoft and Google — just not for the reasons the tech media thinks.
Large enterprises are still burdened by expensive and complex technology, filled with features that employees rarely use. Box is betting that the next generation of workers will demand something different: simplicity.
That strategy, not one small product, is the real threat.
We’ll be reporting live from BoxWorks, which takes place on today and tomorrow in San Francisco. Check out our coverage on VentureBeat for more cloud announcements from the conference.
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