Summary:

Box needs all the help it can get in the race to become the Dropbox of the enterprise, so it’s incentivizing developers to make apps that paying customers actually use.

Chris Yeh, senior vice president of platform at Box
photo: Box

Cloud-storage provider Box wants to keep its paying customers happy, because if their experience degrades, customers will take their documents, and money, elsewhere. Mobile applications using Box files in the OneCloud ecosystem are critical here, and Box on Wednesday is starting a program called $rev to throw money at app developers to keep them focused on providing great service and in turn maintaining Box’s health.

“For us, it’s all about how users are enjoying our products and using them or not,” said Chris Yeh, Box’s senior vice president of platform (pictured). That’s why business- and enterprise-tier customers’ usage of applications determines just how much money developers can make in $rev. Box will provide up to 15 percent of a Box seat price to developers with applications inside of OneCloud, which now has more than 500 apps. Going forward, metrics in addition to usage will also factor in to developer compensation.

The business model differs from those in place at app stores from other Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) providers. Google Apps Marketplace asks app vendors to pay $100 up front, and that’s it. Developers putting their apps on Salesforce.com’s AppExchange have to share their revenues with Salesforce.

Box’s approach gets good marks from Alan Lepofsky, principal analyst at Constellation Research. “What I like about the compensation model … is that it goes beyond simple pay-per-download, and instead rewards partners based on a detailed analysis of which add-ons are actually being used,” he said via email.

The $rev program initially applies for 10 popular pilot apps, including CamScanner, CloudOn and SmartOffice. In six weeks or so, it will roll out to many more mobile apps inside OneCloud.

Box wants to make it easier for mobile developers to come up with apps for Box, with iOS and Android software-development kits (SDKs) that include code for key functions such as accessing files within Box and implementing single-sign-on support. As for Windows Phone, Box is in the process of extending OneCloud to the platform, Yeh said.

Windows Phone or not, the broader concept underlying $rev — tying developer payout to usage — does sound smart, because it compels developers to get solidly behind ongoing efforts to make Box the Dropbox of the enterprise. Box could use all the help it can get there, but if the program succeeds, competitors could institute me-too app stores with similar models.

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