There's a new cloud specifically for enterprise users of mobile devices. On Wednesday, Box introduced its Box OneCloud, intended to unify the use of business information among various apps and devices.
OneCloud provides a suite of more than 30 productivity apps, enabling content to be accessed, edited and shared securely from smartphones and tablets. CEO and co-founder Aaron Levie said in a statement that today's worker has to deal with "thousands of mobile applications storing data in a variety of information silos," while OneCloud "unifies your business applications" in the post-PC era.
OneCloud initially targets Apple's iOS devices, but will soon move to Android as well. Box noted that, according to industry research firm Forrester , about one-third of devices in businesses do not use the Microsoft platform. Forrester also predicted that Windows-based devices will drop below 50 percent within four years.
The applications within OneCloud are integrated to some degree, such as ones from the company's key integration partners -- Quickoffice, Adobe EchoSign, Nuance PaperPort Notes and PDF Expert.
These four have a "round-trip workflow," where content updates from each app are immediately stored in the Box cloud, with integrated functions between these apps to provide advanced document editing, secure e-signature, digital note taking, and PDF annotation. Round-trip workflow includes, among other things, the ability to save a file back to Box into its original location.
Quickoffice offers the ability to edit Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files. ReaddleDocs' PDF Expert provides functions to highlight and make notes on PDF files, Nuance Communications' PaperPort Notes has voice dictation and recording, and Adobe EchoSign gives users the ability to sign and send documents.
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Other apps in OneCloud, with varying degrees of integration, include BrainShark, Call Trunk, DocuSign, Fileboard, GoodReader, JotNot, Openera, and Podio.
On the Box company's blog, VP of Platform Chris Yeh noted that active users of productivity apps have "probably noticed that each app stores its own files." Five productivity apps, he said, store their content files in five different places, while OneCloud stores all documents from different apps in the same locations.
New apps that work with Box can be obtained through the Box app in the iTunes App Store. IT administrators can use Apple's Volume Purchasing Program, or can mass configure iOS devices using the Apple Configurator.
Laura DiDio, an analyst with Information Technology Intelligence Corp., said that making mobile apps more useful for businesses is "quite an emerging market," especially targeted apps such as PDF Expert. "Little apps are really growing up," she said.
Increasingly, DiDio noted, business users are comfortable with using mobile devices that do not have a separate keyboard, especially as a complementary device to laptops or desktops.
She pointed out that Box's only "special sauce" is the bundling and integration of these target apps, adding that other companies, such as Google, can and are playing in this space.