Box.net overhauls content management app's user interface

The company also expanded the hosted applications collaboration features

Box.net has redesigned from the ground up the user interface of its cloud-hosted content management application, as well as added new collaboration features and real-time notification capabilities.

The Palo Alto, California, company will start making available a beta version of the revamped application to users on Thursday, letting them toggle between the new software and the current version through the end of February.

The new user interface features significantly more space for viewing content, while a new collaboration capability will let users engage in threaded discussions within folders, as opposed to within specific files.

A new Apps tab on the Web site links to the company's Apps Marketplace, which has about 150 complementary, pre-integrated applications from partners.

"This new version of Box.net is designed around simplicity for the enterprise," said Aaron Levie, co-founder and CEO of the privately-held company.

Focusing the upgrade on an improved user interface is a good move by Box.net, said Forrester Research analyst Rob Koplowitz. "Box.net places a premium on user experience as a differentiator and recognizes the need to continue to invest in that area of differentiation," he said via e-mail.

Founded in 2005, Box.net positions its application as a content management option to companies of all sizes, competing at the high-end with products like Microsoft's SharePoint and EMC's Documentum, and at a lower-level with companies like Dropbox and SugarSync.

"Within small and mid-size businesses, Box.net is definitely positioned against SharePoint in many instances. In the functional areas of collaboration, social and basic content management services they go head to head," Koplowitz said.

However, Box.net has a harder time competing for customers that need the broader capabilities that SharePoint provides, like search, more advanced content management, business intelligence and application development, he said.

"Organizations that are looking for this broad array of functionality aren't likely to be comparing SharePoint and Box.net," he said.

In 2010, Box.net grew its staff from 65 to 125 employees, and achieved a 99.98 per cent uptime for its application, which is being used currently in 73 per cent of Fortune 500 companies, Levie said. Enterprise customers include T-Mobile and Discovery Networks.

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