No tech conference keynote presentation would be complete without at least one visual gag at the expense of competitors.
Not one to disappoint, Box (BOX) CEO Aaron Levie took his opening early, flashing up a doctored photo of grinning Jamaican runner Usain Bolt (aka the world’s fastest man) outfitted with a Box label and clearly outpacing two rivals sporting Dropbox and OneDrive jerseys.
“What you are clapping for right now is Photoshop,” he joked, referring to the appreciative response from the audience of nearly 5,000 attending the opening session of Box’s annual BoxWorks conference in San Francisco on Wednesday.
The rest of the two-and-a-half-hour session, however, was given over to tangible illustrations of how the cloud file-sharing and synchronization company is reengineering its core service to stay ahead—even as it tries to expand to handle at least 1 billion new files per month with minimum hiccups.
Box’s differentiation, Levie argues, is its “unparalleled” ability to bridge disparate data storage systems, aging content management applications, and emerging cloud applications including widely used services from Google, Microsoft, and Salesforce. “The all new Box is where all your work comes together,” he said. “There’s almost no product today that doesn’t get introduced without collaborators around the world.”
To that end, Box is speeding how quickly pages load (up to 30% faster to retrieve something on the service) and how fast documents can be uploaded for archiving or to solicit feedback (in the near future, this will happen up to five times faster, according to Box). What’s more, Box is completely overhauling the interface for the web, mobile and desktop versions of its service. Box is now compatible with 120 different file types and counting—everything from spreadsheets to 3D images and 360-degree videos, which are displayed as thumbnails and not just file names. It has also added a “recent files” tab for displaying frequently used content.
How Aaron Levie learned to be a leader:
There are also changes in store for Box Notes, the software company’s annotation and comments app, including a feature that lets users work offline. And Box product managers showed off the new Box Relay, a system co-developed with IBM that helps automate repetitive business processes that are heavily document-centric like managing sales contracts or approving marketing collateral.
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Depending on the feature, most of Box’s updates will be available in the fall. The rest will roll out during the first half of 2017.
Many of the revisions outlined Wednesday were requested by some of Box’s largest customers, according to the various product managers who crossed the BoxWorks stage.
As of July 31, Box had 66,000 customers including companies like General Electric and Procter & Gamble. Its deal sizes have been growing, thanks in large part to close partnerships with IBM (IBM), Microsoft (MSFT), and Salesforce (CRM) that have established its service as a data storage option.
Box’s partnership with Google is also growing closer. The two companies are collaborating on technology will ensure closer ties between the Box service and Google Apps. Their work will also cover future search technologies. Both projects should be complete within the next two quarters.