Box says it already services more than 20 million users, including 180,000 businesses, but now it’s looking to take its expand its functionalities beyond being a mere cloud storage locker. To that end, the company has unveiled Box Notes, a lightweight document editor that allows Box users to create and collaborate on files from within the service.
Box touts Box Notes as being a quicker and simpler way for its users to jot down and share info alongside their existing documents, and indeed it is very barebones compared to more fully formed word processors. It’s fairer to look at Box Notes as something more akin to Evernote than Microsoft Word, at least when it comes to document creation capabilities, but Box says this simplicity is a mostly intentional design choice.
“From day one, our mission has been to make it incredibly easy to store and share information,” said Box CEO Aaron Levie in a statement. “As business becomes increasingly fast-paced, fluid and mobile, the very nature of information is changing, and the tools businesses use to capture that information need to evolve. To unlock the collective knowledge of organizations, Box needs to not only be a place where people can store and share content, but also a place where they can create and capture ideas in real-time across teams.”
That being said, Box Notes does come with a range of features that might remind some people of Google Docs. The key one is that users can collaborate and edit a document together in real time, with their presences signified by Chat Heads-style icons dubbed “Note Heads.” There’s an in-line toolbar too, which comes with basic editing and hyperlinking capabilities. Users also have ability to leave comments directly in a document, and they can create an external link and share their note with others. All of this is presented in an similarly barebones interface, one that’s limited yet still attractive to look at.
Box says it’s currently accepting sign-ups for a “limited private beta” of Box Notes, so the service is still far from finished. The company notes that it will add key missing features like offline editing–like Google Docs and Microsoft’s Word Web App, Box Notes is entirely cloud-based–the ability to revert to a previous version of a note, and rich media embedding sometime “soon.” Crucially, there’s also no mobile app at the moment, but Box says that Box Notes will have push notifications and integration with Box’s Android and iOS apps whenever it does arrive.
But while there are a few shortcomings, the introduction of Box Notes is an important step for Box as it continues to compete with the likes of Dropbox, Google Drive, SkyDrive and the legions of other ever-expanding cloud storage services. Box caters especially to business users, and as long more and more workers take their office to the cloud, there should be room for more and more companies to challenge Microsoft’s Office hegemony and provide services that cater to the enterprise’s new needs. Box hopes that Box Notes will do just that when it launches to the public sometime within the next four to six months.