Box and Microsoft - friends at last?

By Peter Gothard
04 Sep 2014 View Comments
aaronleviebox

He's made a name for himself with his Microsoft-baiting keynote pop quotes, but it seems Box CEO Aaron Levie may have decided to bury the hatchet with his old nemesis.

In a press conference after today's BoxWorks 2014 keynote - which featured only a fleeting swipe at Satya Nadella, with Levie encouraging delegates to tweet the Microsoft CEO directly to ask about iPad Microsoft Office Box integration - Levie was a good deal more positive about the two companies' ongoing relationship.

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Quipping to a journalist who commented on the omission of Microsoft-related jibes from the keynote, he said: "You weren't supposed to be paying attention to that - this is the new Box."

He went on to paint a picture of a company looking to build new bridges with the Redmond giant.

"We've had, obviously, an interesting relationship over the years, mostly because when we first got started, what we heard from customers was that they didn't like [Microsoft's own collaboration platform] SharePoint.

"They did not like the complexity, the cost, the delivery model and the user experience of SharePoint.

"So it was very natural for us to paint Box next to that solution, because that's what customers were doing," said Levie.

But the man who only last year insinuated Microsoft would be buried - in terms of popularity of its enterprise apps - within five years, has turned over a new leaf.

"Today if you think about a customer's environment, it's much more diverse, it's much more best-of-breed than it was previously. It's not just about Microsoft - it's about Apple, Workday, ServiceNow, Zendesk, all these new platforms, and Microsoft is one of those best-of-breed providers," stated Levie.

Levie explained how he believes Microsoft offers "best-of-breed" document collaboration, document editing, email and productivity services.

"If we're going to do our job as a best-of-breed platform, we need to integrate across all of the leading service providers in that best-of-breed stack.

"So it's much more natural for us to work with Microsoft today in an integrated fashion, and at the same time there's a lot more we could be doing with Microsoft as they open up more."

The last statement is, perhaps, telling. With Nadella's "cloud first, mobile first" strategy, experiments with removing Windows licence fees for mobile devices, and even open-sourcing various .NET technologies, Levie's change of heart may not just be based on Box's ambitions to escape its "enterprise storage" reputation.

With Nadella already having got to work on turning around Microsoft's reputation as a closed-off incumbent software company, perhaps Levie has been truly won over by Redmond's new outlook.

The Box and Office 365 integration is, concluded Levie, "a very early example; you'll see more over time".

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