Levie sees need for startups to unite to bring Web 2.0 into the enterprise.
Box CEO Aaron Levie sees himself as a revolutionary, and he will use his Enterprise 2.0 keynote speech as an opportunity to rally others to his cause.
Levie said he will probably touch on many of the same themes he emphasized at Box's recent user conference, although he is looking forward to bringing the message to a broader audience of Enterprise 2.0 practitioners and software developers.
"We really only have one core message, which is that our technology hasn't lived up to the changes in our organizations," Levie said. Changing that "requires a lot more than just Box and what we're doing internally--there's going to have to be an ecosystem and an environment that gets created to do this."
Box provides a cloud software service for Web and mobile file sharing within businesses and between businesses. When Levie talks about standards, he is primarily thinking of integration with other cloud and social software products. In his view, the de facto standards of the consumer social web have largely been set by Facebook because of its dominant position in the market. "We don't have a platform in the enterprise that has that much scale," he said.
Some might argue that there is a de facto standard: Microsoft SharePoint. Though social software enthusiasts might point to the need to plug social software capability gaps in SharePoint, Microsoft's collaboration technologies are unquestionably the most widely deployed.
However, Levie has consciously set up Box as the anti-SharePoint. In a recent blog post for TechCrunch, Competing with the Big Guys, Levie laid out a software industry insurgency. "Startups only have an opportunity at winning, though, if they focus on the new areas in which the incumbent players can't compete," he wrote. "You only have an advantage over a big competitor if you focus disproportionately on your area of expertise and new dimension, avoiding all the common distractions that take you off course."
One of the things incumbents are reluctant to do is reinvent their technologies around open Web standards, Levie said.
Although Box provides a lightweight integration with SharePoint created by a third-party developer, it leaves tighter integration with Microsoft's architecture to more SharePoint-friendly rivals.
"Certainly, SharePoint has built a standard for enterprise apps, collaboration apps, and software, but I think it's philosophically the wrong direction to just extend SharePoint," Levie said, calling it a "highly proprietary, highly complicated platform" and the wrong answer for "enterprise openness."
Though Levie sees the need for better social software, he rejects many of the social software standards other companies such as Jive Software are embracing. He bemoans that Jive Software, Yammer, and Salesforce.com's Chatter have different approaches to social message streams, but he doesn't think the Activity Streams specification is the answer.
He acknowledges that some enterprise vendors like Jive Software are doing interesting things with OpenSocial, but adds, "If I had to bet, I wouldn't bet on OpenSocial." That specification fizzled in public social media because Facebook didn't embrace it, and as a result software developers have had little reason to invest in it.
In file sharing, Box looks at standards like CMIS, the Content Management Interoperability Services standard, and dismisses them as too oriented toward "legacy" technology rather than the spirit of open Web standards.
Box thinks it has some of the answers, but "the vast majority is still unknown," Levie said. "It's going to require innovation from a bunch of players."
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