Box embraces Windows Phone

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While it’s overstating the case to say that Box has renounced a fatwa on Windows Phones, it is worth pointing out that the cloud storage company now supports the current release of Windows Phone and will support the upcoming Windows Phone 8 as well. It had no such plans before.

Box, which targets businesses with its cloud storage service, has, to date, focused on iPhones and Android phones  and offered a generic HTML 5 client. It has not offered a Windows Phone specific client. (Until now, it only said it would gauge customer demand.) Starting Tuesday, it will, said Chris Yeh, VP of platforms for Box, Los Altos, Calif.

It is doing so not so much because it sees Windows Phones achieving critical mass now, but because Box sees growing interest in enterprise accounts in Windows Phones, Yeh said in a recent interview.

“Enterprises are watching Windows Phone and tablet development very closely,” he said. The reason? They remain heavily dependent on Office which remains Microsoft’s ace in the hole, he said.

The reality is that complex Excel or PowerPoint files do not render well on iPhones or other non-Windows devices, he said. The vast majority of corporate road warriors still live and breathe Excel and Powerpoint, the growing use of Google Apps notwithstanding.

Box must tread a fine line here because Microsoft is both a partner and competitor, especially since it promised to integrate its next-gen Office with its own SkyDrive cloud storage.

“We will watch carefully to see if SkyDrive gets the best integration,” Yeh noted. But he is cautiously optimistic.

“For years, Microsoft dominated the stack. They were used to winning because of that vertical stack. But for these Windows Phone devices, I don’t think that will work because they’re the underdog there … [and] need to build an ecosystem,” he said. Right now Windows Phones have a handful of apps at least compared to the half a million Apple claims are available in its App Store.

Box’s new Windows Phone client will be available on the Microsoft Windows Marketplace on Tuesday

One thing that may give Windows Phones a boost is Google’s acquisition of Motorola Mobility. The fact that the company that controls Android now has its own handset business gives third-party phone makers pause. Some phone watchers think that uncertainty may give Microsoft’s thus-far-anemic phone effort a shot in the arm as handset makers look for alternatives. Windows 8 phones are expected to hit the shelves in November, just in time for the holidays.

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