Monday, June 6th, 2011

iCloud is Cool, but not Quite Right for the iEnterprise

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With incredible fanfare, Steve Jobs today unveiled iCloud, a free service that includes file synchronization functionality through “Documents in the Cloud.” As a provider of secure content sharing and collaboration for businesses — with 5GB of free storage and apps for the iPad, iPhone and Android devices — we’re often asked what will happen to the cloud storage market when Apple enters it in a meaningful way.

Well, today’s news is extremely exciting for consumers, developers, and Apple fans. Apple’s first foray into a cloud drive service, MobileMe, was simply not competitive: the technology didn’t meet consumers’ high expectations, and with too many free alternatives on the market, the pricing wasn’t quite there (well, actually it was too there). With iCloud, consumers get a free service that provides native app functionality coupled with seamless cloud integration and sync.

iCloud looks to be a major complement to Apple’s services-and-multi-device strategy, and it’s another attack in the ongoing battle with Microsoft and Google to connect user information across a myriad of devices, each vendor vying to enhance the seamlessness and stickiness of its apps and services. And while iCloud will likely produce a compelling service for consumers, there’s one thing this launch is not: a viable content management and sharing solution for the iEnterprise.

iConsumer vs. the iEnterprise

The first issue with iCloud is that it will be optimized to work with other Apple products. The de facto difficulty with Apple (speaking as a customer and amateur pundit) is that they are laser focused on their own ecosystem. This is fine in the consumer world, where we tend to have considerable flexibility in selecting our own software and hardware. But in the enterprise we’re typically using devices, platforms, operating systems, and software that come from an array of vendors — and not always of our choosing. Apple, Microsoft and others tend to think in terms of vertical integration between their own product lines, but the world is moving increasingly toward horizontal integration — disparate systems need to be able to interact with one another. So while iCloud may be adopted by individual workers and even teams using Apple products, it’s unlikely that it could ever be used as an organization-wide standard.

Secondly, while moving information between devices is incredibly powerful, the cloud’s most prominent advantage lies in facilitating information sharing between individuals and groups on separate networks. With access to a web browser, people can immediately share data with anyone inside or outside their business, which has long been Box’s primary advantage in the enterprise compared to legacy solutions like SharePoint. iCloud may be incredibly powerful in a context where you are solely interacting with your own information, but does little for you when you want to easily extend content to others.

And finally, the IT departments we talk to are certainly not clamoring for any additional services to facilitate further data sprawl. Between all the social tools, file sharing services, communication apps, and backup software adopted by end-users, enterprises are looking to consolidate the services used in their organization, not expand them. And Apple has historically avoided building meaningful features for enterprises – advanced security, logging activity, single sign-on with corporate identities, and scalable user management are certainly not on the iCloud roadmap.

So while iCloud is incredibly exciting as an indicator of where the market is heading, at Box we’ll continue to be laser focused on supporting businesses by combining storage and sharing with the tremendous efficiencies of the cloud. It’s all about enabling organizations to manage and share their information across various platforms, securely, and with extreme ease.

This is the future, and we’re sticking to it.

  • Sascha

    It would be awesome if box.net would be laser focused on getting the sync client for Mac out of beta and make it compatible with Mac OS X Liion (which will come out next month). Just sayin….

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  • Julie

    I agree we need box to support Macs fully. There are many businesses that are all Macs and we need the sync client. Further you have to be invited to use the beta for Mac and I haven’t received one. I agree the Box will excel at collaboration. The whole iCloud seems very one user, per device only orientated. If our family shares the iTunes account do they have full access then to all my iCloud data? I think so.

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  • http://www.ite.com David MacKenzie

    Great post! As an individual, I am an iPhone, iPad, MacBook, and PC user. iCloud will be great for me to keep my media, email, and contacts in order. The key term in the previous sentence is “me”. This does nothing for me as a Project Manager at an engineering services firm working with dozens of different clients. Box.net does a fantastic job of allowing us to collaborate more effectively with our clients regardless of what hardware they are running. It is a completely different thing. Keep up the good work!

  • Daniel Cook

    This is all still a moot point (to me at least) until sync works properly with a network since not all business that need Box have the same needs as a large enterprise.

    That said, Box are still the best available for business based content and there really is no comparing what they offer to iCloud from a business or enterprise standpoint.