Box Counters Salesforce Smackdown

At TechCrunch Disrupt last week, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff leaked his own company’s news of a new content collaboration and sharing service dubbed ChatterBox. I’ve actually known about the product for a month or so, my sources who told me of its initial existence said that it was a direct reaction to some hiring of Salesforce execs by Box. Even more interesting given that Salesforce is itself a shareholder in Box. My source suggested that the name ChatterBox was intended to be a direct smack of Box CEO Aaron Levie by Benioff – kind of a “listen kid, just know your place and don’t be getting ahead of yourself” type move. Levie has been upbeat about the news, welcoming more competition and assuring all that the space is in no ways a zero sum game.

I’ve had some pre-briefs of Salesforce news, so won’t break any details of the product launch, but I will say that this seems like a very strange situation and messages coming out of Salesforce HQ over the past month or so have been unusual – some of that was due to the leaking of the ChatterBox news, some to the sudden leaving of Salesforce EVP Byron Sebastian and some perhaps to even more news due to be broken in the next couple of days.

Anyway – with DreamForce upon us, it was to be expected that Box would counter with a piece of news and, true to expectations, they haven’t let us down. Box quickly rushed out the door an announcement of a new global network that is aimed at increasing transfer rates and hence the speed of business collaboration. According to the company, the new accelerator will increase upload speeds by 10% (update – mea culpa, it’s 10* improvement which is pretty goddam exciting) on previous performance. They’re also doing some smack talking of their own saying that their upload performance in trials was twice as fast as those for Google Drive and nearly four times faster than DropBox. Basically it’s some advanced routing technologies that perform the following:

  • Nine new international upload locations that bring the Box experience closer to its customers throughout North America, Europe, Australia, Asia and South America
  • Patent-pending routing technology that analyzes user traffic based on several variables, including location, operating system and browser preferences, to consistently deliver optimal transfer speeds
  • Enables the fastest data upload path by continually evaluating external factors that may affect transfer speeds
  • Ensures information is secure, with all data encrypted throughout transit

Now I love Box as a product, and fully expect them to do well. But this technology, while interesting, is hardly newsworthy – what we are seeing however is Box begin to play the game of a true enterprise technology business by ensuring that any move by a competitor is countered by some news of its own.  I’m still not convinced that there isn’t far more to the Box/Salesforce story than meets the eye – and I’m especially looking forward to hearing how Benioff talks about the company at his keynote this week. And what he does about that pesky little investment he holds in them as well. Interesting times huh?