Box on Tuesday extended unlimited storage to customers on its Business plan and announced upcoming Microsoft Office integration. The move is a bid to redefine the competition between cloud storage services and to establish its financial viability.
"This may seem like the escalation of a storage war, but we're actually approaching the end of one," said CEO Aaron Levie in a blog post.
Box began approaching an initial public offering in March when it filed to go public. The company could have done so in April but delayed its market debut because cloud companies were being punished by investors. The Bessemer Venture Partners Cloud Index Fund is presently more than 20% off its February 22, 2014 high, having recovered about 10% since its low point this year in early May. The VC firm is an investor in Box.
[Microsoft VP predicts the cloud will evolve into just a few big players. Read more: Cloud Trends To Watch: Structure 2014.]
In its S-1 filing, Box reported revenue of $124.2 million last year and a loss of $168.6 million as it invested in its product and staff.
Beyond investor skepticism in cloud companies, Box faces cutthroat competition from Amazon, Google, and Microsoft, all of which reduced cloud storage pricing in March after Amazon and Microsoft cut prices in January. Cloud companies know they must offer exceptional value to restore faith in an industry tarnished by revelations about the reach of US intelligence services.
Noting that storage prices have dropped by a factor of more than 22,000 in the past two decades, Levie argues that Box can win the race to the bottom by draining the pool. "Competition for enterprise customers will no longer be about how much information a solution enables them to store, but rather what it helps them do with that information," he said.
Box has offered unlimited storage to customers on its $35/month Enterprise plan since 2010. By extending its all-you-can-eat buffet to its $15/month Business plan, Box aims to shift the competitive focus away from the size of the plate to the diversity of the menu.
Toward that end, the company plans to introduce integration with Microsoft Office 365 this fall. Box for Office 365 Desktop will allow users to access Box files from Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. Box for Outlook 365 Desktop will allow users to share links to Box files and to turn document attachments into Box shared links.
Box's outreach to Microsoft may validate former Apple CEO Steve Jobs's contention that storage is a feature rather than a product, but it's a necessary concession to the enduring might of Microsoft Office in the business world. And it may just be the kind of alliance Box needs to thrive in the shadow of other cloud platform powers like Amazon and Google.
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