Box Brings 50 Apps Partners To Android

Previously available only on iOS, Box OneCloud lets third party apps read and write files from the Box cloud service.
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The Box cloud file-sharing service is introducing an Android upgrade that offers 50 new app integrations, bringing Android up to par with the Box OneCloud service first offered to iPhone and iPad users.

Box OneCloud for Android allows apps to read, write, and update files fetched from Box, and an apps gallery promotes the available apps that take advantage of those features. A new SDK for Android developers is also being released on the developers' site.

Box introduced OneCloud for iOS as part of a series of platform and API updates announced this spring. Chris Yeh, VP of platform at Box, said the announcement of the first 30 OnCloud partners for iOS was met with a flood of complaints from Android users feeling left out. OneCloud is now up to 50 iOS partners, and it hopes to smoothen ruffled feathers in "Android land" by matching that number on Android from the launch of this program. Among the most popular of the Android apps are iAnnotate, Breezy, Docusign Ink, and Fetchnotes.

"Android actually has the most users for us of any mobile platform," Yeh said in an interview. However, the demand for productivity apps on the iPad in particular drove iOS to the top of Box's priority list initially. Android tablets have not been as widely adopted, but Android on phones is very popular, he said. Although Box would ideally have pursued both at the same time, "we're still not big enough as a company to do all those simultaneous launches."

Android makes file management easier than does iOS, but Box still had to invest in adding the security required by its enterprise customers, Yeh said. "We've done a lot of work around apps to handle the roundtrip cleanly."

Box assures that files downloaded to the device are never stored in an unencrypted form on the device, meaning they can be accessed only if the user is authenticated to the service, he said. OneCloud extends that assurance to the third-party apps it works with, so that they also leave nothing behind where it could be easily extracted from a lost or stolen device, he said.

"We can't have files leave Box, ever," Yeh said.

Box is pursuing a vision of productivity tools built around the storage service, which it is delivering first to mobile users, although similar families of apps might be built up over time around the Box Web application, Yeh said. Box research shows that 40% of its users access Box from a mobile device. Upon further examination of the usage statistics, Box recently discovered that 35% of users access Box exclusively from a mobile device. "That was super surprising," Yeh said.

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I suspect this might have something to do with consumer promotions offering gigabytes of free Box storage with selected phones, including Android models from LG. Those are people who are signing up for Box first, and maybe only, as a storage service for use with their mobile devices. Yeh said that might be part of it, but he believes mobile access to Box might also be the exclusive method for some enterprise users who sign on while traveling to retrieve files shared by their colleagues.

The most popular apps so far are in the categories of document editing and PDF annotation, Yeh said. Users who access a file through Box see a menu of choices for applications capable of viewing, editing, or annotating that file type, he said.

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