Updated: Box is enhancing the Android clients for its cloud-based storage service in a plan that makes Android first among equals in smartphone and tablet OSes.
Box, formerly known as Box.net, is one of several companies — including fan-favorite Dropbox as well as Microsoft, and Google — competing to store your digital paraphernalia — Word documents, presentations, photographs, whatever — in the cloud and make it accessible from your devices of choice.
A big part of the update is the facelift Box gave virtually all Android clients. “We worked closely with Google to build a modern interface using Google’s Ice Cream Sandwich principles. That Android 4 UI will run cross all Android clients,” said Matthew Self, VP of platform engineering for Box. (Ice Cream Sandwich is Google’s name for the latest Android smartphone OS.)
Given the number of Android flavors in the field — every carrier has its own — and different versions of each, that single UI claim is no small feat. Self estimates there are easily hundreds of device-Android combinations out there.
Also new to Android: Users will be able to upload multiple files in batch mode and in background and can invite collaborators to work on a document from their device. And, they can comment on these documents from their phones, Self said.
While Box supports a wide variety of non-Android devices–including Apple iPhones and iPads, RIM’s Blackberry and Blackberry Playbook, even HP’s defunct TouchPad — Android appears to be the favorite.
“Android has eclipsed iPhone on the phone side and it’s growing fast in tablets. There are a lot of Android phones coming into the enterprise,” Self said. He cited Gartner numbers showing Android with 50 percent of the smartphone market, Apple iOS with 25 percent and Microsoft with just 2 percent — a number he does not think will improve much.
That explains why Box offers no native Windows Phone support at all, although an HTML5 browser-based client runs on most devices. Self discounted the ability of Microsoft to gain significant market share in smartphones even though the new Windows Phone Mango OS has been well reviewed.
Update: A Box spokesman wrote in to clarify the company’s position on Windows Phone. He said:
At Box, we want to make it dead simple for our users to share and collaborate on business content from any device. We’ve invested aggressively in building amazing experiences on iOS and Android because those are the platforms our customers are using, but we’re always tracking adoption and demand, and will support Windows when we see it get traction in the organizations we serve.
With the updated Android clients comes support for four new languages — French, Italian, German, and Spanish– so Box is no longer an English-only experience. The company will show off its new offerings next week at the Global World Congress in Barcelona.
It’s becoming clear that Box is banking on Android at the expense of Windows Phone and even Apple’s popular devices. The fact that Microsoft’s SkyDrive and Apple’s iCloud cloud storage services could be considered Box competitors might be a motivating factor.
Still, given RIM’s Blackberry woes, the continued fragmentation of the Android market and the worry that Google’s acquisition of Motorola is causing rival handset makers –all of which could help Microsoft’s smartphone efforts– this looks like a risky move.