Box shadows rival Dropbox, adds Office Online to its Web UI

Box today integrated Microsoft's Office Online with its cloud storage service.

Box today followed rival Dropbox to integrate Microsoft's Office Online with its cloud storage service.

"Today, we're introducing Box for Office Online, making it easier than ever for our customers to create and manage their Word docs, PowerPoint presentations and Excel spreadsheets securely from anywhere and on any device, right from Box," said David Still, Box's chief of mobile products, in a post to his company's blog.

Like the ties between Dropbox and Office Online -- the latter is Microsoft's browser-based app trio of Excel, PowerPoint and Word -- Box lets customers open documents from within its service, edit and then save back to the cloud. Box users will also be able to create new Office Online documents.

Dropbox added the same functionality to its browser-based UI in April, part of a broader partnership with Microsoft that kicked off in November 2014.

Still also promised future Box moves to bring it more on par with Dropbox. "Later this year, [Box and Microsoft] intend to further collaborate on integrations with native Office clients on iOS, Android, and Windows," Still wrote.

He did not provide a release window for updates to Box's mobile apps.

Microsoft added Dropbox support to its Office apps on iPhone, iPad and Android late last year, and Dropbox released a Windows Phone app in January.

Box took advantage of Microsoft's Office 365 Cloud Storage Partner Program, an initiative by the Redmond, Wash. developer to extend the influence of Office by letting third-party cloud storage services connect to Office Online and Office for iOS. Box signed up with the program in mid-February.

"By opening up Office Online, Microsoft is showing an amazing amount of proactive enablement for moving the future of work this direction," said Box CEO Aaron Levie in a separate post.

Although Microsoft competes with both Dropbox and Box with its own OneDrive cloud storage service, the company has aggressively moved toward a more agnostic outlook, whether regarding rival platforms or competitive services.

Analysts have pointed out that Microsoft is doing itself a favor, not cutting off its nose to spite its face, with such maneuvers. "This is sacrificing a bit of OneDrive's market advantage to help a stronger potential revenue driver in Office 365," said Ross Rubin, principal analyst at Reticle Research, in a previous interview.

"To Microsoft, it's more important that people are using Office than that they are using OneDrive," added Wes Miller of Directions on Microsoft.

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