How Box scrambles to support tablet proliferation

February 21, 2013
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With paid seats at more than 150,000 businesses — including 92% of the Fortune 500 — Box has made serious inroads into the enterprise. In part, that's by working to support every device and platform out there. During his keynote interview at the first TabTimes TABLET STRATEGY West conference in San Francisco, Chris Yeh, VP of platforms at Box, said that the service works on every platform.

"We will be everywhere natively that we can until someone shows us that HTML5 is the way to go."

Much enterprise adoption of Box is from the ground up: One user shares a file with another user, who also signs up. Or a small department might start using Box for free.

"That's often the way we can get into bigger accounts," said Yeh. The company tracks users at each company. "Once we get a critical mass, our guys will go in and have a conversation about using it in the enterprise."

Approximately 50% of access to Box comes from a mobile device, and the vast majority is the Android operating systems in various forms, Yeh said. However, the picture is different when it comes to license in the enterprise, where 90% is iOS — and almost all of that is access comes via iPad.

Box went live on Windows 8 when it launched in December, and it had very strong take-up. Installs on Windows 8 remain close to new installs on iOS, but Yeh thinks that is because Box was featured on the Windows 8 tablet. He expects Windows 8 installs to stall but did however note that there are enterprises considering bringing Windows tablets in en masse.

Partners and indie developers have created some interesting use cases that Box execs might never have thought of, according to Yeh, and deployed them on unexpected platforms. For example, Box provides a native app for the defunct RIM PlayBook that's used by the National Hockey League Players Association. The players use their PlayBooks to shoot video and photos in the field, then upload them to Box with one click so they can be worked on by professional editors.

"These native use cases are really hard to stop serving. It's a struggle," said Yeh.

With the company's ability to develop for new platforms maxxed out, it's focusing on working with third-party app developers to link into Box. "One of the most important things when we get onto a platform is to spread out into the ecosystem and start working with people," said the Box VP.

Yeh said Box will white-label cloud storage for third-party apps, as well as deploy services and accounts. Partners may also be featured in Box marketing. He admitted, however, that its app distribution channel is only decent.

"Our mission this year is to make that work better. We need to take an app developer and bring them to the customer base in a form where they can make real money."

The next Tablet Strategy conference is April 30 in New York. 

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