Box is adding native content creation and editing capabilities to its cloud storage and collaboration service.
Box Notes will let users produce and collaborate on written documents from directly within Box's cloud collaboration platform, as opposed to relying on third-party programs such as Microsoft Word. It offers basic writing, editing and annotating and is not meant to compete against full-featured suites such as Microsoft Office or Google Apps, Box said. Still, weaning users off Word, even for basic and collaborative tasks, is an uphill battle.
"The average user still defaults to and prefers Word," said an IT executive with a company that uses Box, based in Massachusetts. "So I am not convinced that any alternative program can gain enough traction to unseat Word. A lot of end users would have to change their habits."
Box Notes’ concurrent collaboration feature sets its self apart from Word. The software displays pictures of each user next to the text that he or she is writing and editing, so colleagues can see who is working on what in real time. Other cloud services, such as Google Docs, also offer these capabilities.
Unlike Google Docs, however, Box Notes has no instant messaging or chat capabilities. Box may add that feature in future iterations, said Whitney Bouck, the company's enterprise general manager. Other future features will include the ability to embed photos and videos, version control and access for mobile and offline users.
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Box Notes was launched in beta at this week's BoxWorks 2013 conference in San Francisco. It will become generally available for free later this year.
In other news from the conference, Box showed its new in-browser previews that let users interact more deeply with files without actually opening them. The company also previewed a revamped iOS app to integrate technology from Folders, a file-browsing app that Box acquired in May.
Assistant Site Editor Margaret Jones contributed to this report.