<disclaimer> – I thought twice about the title above, anyone who infers anything from it needs to spend significantly more time away from a computer </disclaimer>

I spent some time yesterday talking to box.net (coverage here) – partly in order to get an update on how they’re fairing, and also to demo some new technology they’re introducing. First a quick update. Box.net are proud that they’ve now reached the dual milestones of 1 billion files served and 1 million files served per day. They’ve grown the organization 75% and are now a 70 person team. Jen Grant, VP of Marketing at box sees 2010 as their “big year” caused, in part, by three factors affecting enterprises:

  • More organic businesses with more external project connections
  • IT changes carving costs out of spend and driving value
  • The changing face of the workforce

With the review underway, Jen was keen to lift the wrapper on their new product announcement. Box.net is integrating the functionality gained when they acquired content management company Increo solutions in October – the new functionality brings content playing and embedding to box.net. So how does this work, and what’s the use case?

With the new functionality, box.net users will be able to view any file natively within the box.net environment – not only documents but images, presentations, audio, video, PDFs etc. This extends so far as to allow for playing of PowerPoint files and, more importantly, gives IT some visibility over the content use – IT can, for example, track which slides of which presentations have been viewed the highest number of times. It’s a value area that Sliderocket is building it’s offering on, the ability to add value to formerly static documents by making them the launch pad for multiple trackable action calls. I quizzed Jen about this side of things and her response was:

We’re really excited about how Cloud Content Management can give the IT department more robust analytics regarding how content is being used… giving IT better visibility regarding how business content is shared both within and beyond the organization. Our customers use Box to share files internally, but also as a core way to collaborate around files externally, whether it’s partners, vendors, prospects or customers, so information regarding collaboration “beyond the firewall” is key.

It seemed to me a sensible approach for box.net to provide it’s own analytics functionality to the app. When I suggested this to Jen her reply was that:

…adding our own detailed and granular analytics component to Box isn’t a current priority, though we’ll keep evaluating and see if there’s a need for that kind of functionality. But this is where the value of Box’s open platform comes in: we can easily leverage and integrate great solutions from other providers, such as a basic Google Analytics integration… we’re always interested in bringing best-of-breed solutions to our customers, and analytics is no exception.

Apart from just content viewing though, users will have the ability to build rich content around files – creating comments and tasks and printing the files – in this way box.net are differentiating themselves from the likes of Google docs which is more about file creation rather than content management and workflow.

The second part of the functionality is embedding – organizations can embed files on extranets to give external visibility to chosen files. It’s bringing what YouTube bought for video to all documents. As Jen pointed out:

embedding lets you share the content in the form you intended. For example, you don’t have to worry about whether people have the right applications or the right version of any given piece of software – what you want them to see is how it’s delivered. Since we remove the barriers to viewing that content, it just makes it accessible to more people, whether it’s on a company intranet, a blog or any other web page.

Overall I’m pretty excited by the new functionality – more the ability to view content items on the fly and online than the embedding. What it’ll mean for box.net’s customer numbers this year remains to seem. See the video below for a demo of the new functionality. 

 

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Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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