Great oaks from little acorns grow. And one of the best-known online file storage services grew from small idea too. Box (the company) started with the aim of creating a business to let users share and manage files easily, sending them via mobile phone text messaging. One thing led to another, and Box became a business-oriented solution that now serves 99% of the Fortune 500 companies. It offers 10 gigabytes of storage for free, with more for paying users. But Box may have to find other ways to attract business users now that other online storage companies like China’s Tencent offer terabytes of free storage – and now that Google recently upped the stakes to offer unlimited storage to business users for a flat monthly fee with Google Drive for Work.
Game Over? Start New Game!
For anyone thinking that online data storage was an arms race to infinite space, it sounds like ‘game over’. You can’t get more unlimited than unlimited. After that, is there anything but the price left to discuss? Google gives business users all the storage space they can eat for just $10 a month and rules the roost – until another provider steps in with a lower price. But online file storage lends itself to innovation creative marketing like other IT offerings. Now that size is all but out of the running as a competitive differentiator, providers are putting the emphasis on added value.
Let’s Work Together
Box’s plan is to offer new tools to help businesses automate daily routines. The provider also wants to make it easier for third-party vendors and developers to integrate their applications directly with Box. The aim is to make Box the standard or ‘go-to’ solution for businesses when it comes to online storage with team working and collaboration. With the additional tools and partner apps, professional customers will be able to immediately access to personalized data on customers who walk into a store, or transfer patient medical data to third-party tablet applications while remaining fully compliant with health regulations.
Thanks, We Have Apps of Our Own
Google, the Internet gorilla, has not only outsized the others. It is also destroying another former competitors’ sales argument by moving to complete cross-platform compatibility (Android, iOS and desktop). Google already has apps of its own (Google Apps) so it doesn’t have to woo third parties as hard as Box does. Still, product plans include an API for developers to access the audit log, which is important for building apps for industry sectors with stringent compliance requirements. That means a choice for app builders who might otherwise have gone directly with Box.
Different Strategies Possible
Possible marketing strategies include either making yourself indispensable to the app storage ecosystem, vertically integrating to take competitive positions in specific industry sectors, or both. Box, still much younger and smaller than Google, is trying the first option, buddying up with other companies that are specialized in their own particular niches. Google, already flying high with over $40 billion in annual revenues (although still mostly from advertising), might be tempted to emulate Microsoft’s or IBM’s approach to build or acquire software expertise for targeted sectors. Meanwhile, customers benefit from vendors falling over themselves to please the market – something to make the most of, while it lasts!