Box launches standalone Notes app to help teams collaborate

The service will compete with the likes of Evernote and Dropbox Paper

Box Notes is getting its own standalone web app and a new desktop app for Windows and Mac. It's a new turn for the product, which allows users to collaboratively edit documents in real time.

Notes gives users a workspace for jotting down ideas and sharing them with others. Those notes can include rich text elements like embedded images, tasks and tables, in addition to plain text.

The service is designed to give users a shared workspace in the cloud for discussing ideas and working on them with other people. Making Notes a standalone app could help it appeal to a broader audience and increase its usage. 

Document collaboration and note taking is a crowded market. Box Notes is going up against the likes of Google Docs, Google Keep, Dropbox Paper, Microsoft OneNote, Evernote and a host of other products. So why does the world need another note taking app, and why should it be Box Notes?

Aaron Levie, Box's co-founder and CEO, said in an interview that the product's key point of differentiation is that it's backed by the company's storage technology, which means it inherits features around security and compliance that aren't always available from other apps.

"Our job is to build all of the enterprise capabilities around helping companies manage their data and manage their content," he said in an interview. "And so, if they can't work in real time, and can't collaborate in real time on top of that infrastructure, and on top of that set of capabilities, then obviously, we're not really providing or fulfilling the full amount of potential for our customers."

Right now, Notes is being used by a little more than half of Box's customers in the Fortune 500. These upgrades are designed to drive further adoption of Notes, and also make it more broadly useful. Starting Tuesday, people will be able to use Notes without having a Box account, something that Levie hopes will drive adoption of the company's cloud storage services. Box offers a free tier for its software but Box Business, its most popular plan, costs $15 per user per month. The company's services are available internationally, and customers include Gatwick Airport and Eurostar Transportation.

Box Notes doesn't have a standalone mobile app, though Levie said that the company is building one. For the moment, users can access and edit notes through the Box app for their iPhones and Android smartphones.

Looking towards the future, Levie said that the company isn't building a competitor to Microsoft Office or Google Docs. Notes is focused instead on capturing ideas that might otherwise be locked up in someone's brain, left on a whiteboard, or passed around via email.

Updates to Box Notes might support features like embedding content into documents from the web, and adding live-updating content to a note. Levie also said that Box is looking into how it can integrate Notes with Slack, and it seems likely that integrations with other services would also be on the horizon.

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