Monday, April 28th, 2014

An Open Microsoft


“The cloud is about breaking down walls between people and information. Not building a new set of islands in the sky.”

– John Case, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft Office Division

This was the closing remark on a recent Microsoft OneDrive blog post announcing new features titled, “Thinking outside the box.” While we haven’t always agreed with everything Microsoft has done, we completely agree with this view on cloud innovation. However, if Microsoft is to make good on *not* creating new “sets of closed islands in the sky,” then they need to drive for further openness in the ecosystem.

By keeping Office 365 users on the closed OneDrive “island,” Microsoft is stranding hundreds of millions of users and customers that have chosen Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, and others. And by releasing Office on the iPad without the ability to view or edit documents from any cloud service other than their own, they’re making it harder — not easier – for users to get the most out of their software.

Over the last four decades, Microsoft has built some of the world’s most important computing platforms. Many of these platforms — including Windows — succeeded because of their openness to third party applications and developers. In the Post-PC era, the enterprise software landscape has become far more heterogeneous, with most organizations using a litany of best-of-breed cloud solutions, including, Workday, Zendesk, MobileIron, Okta, GoodData, Domo, Google Apps, Office 365, Box, and many more. In this era, data should be free to move to the services that a customer chooses.

I’m personally excited by the revitalized and innovative Microsoft we’ve seen under Satya Nadella’s leadership. At Box, we believe in the power of the cloud to break down walls, and welcome the opportunity to work with Microsoft to make it a reality.

  • Ryan McLaughlin

    This is probably the single biggest issue that is holding me back from fully investing in Office 365 and other Microsoft infrastructure (re: not allowing storage/integration with Box, Dropbox, etc.).

    It reminds me of the “forced integration” Google is focused on with their online platforms lately (e.g. G+), but Microsoft’s stubbornness could have much worse long-term effects on the users’ computing experience. The unwillingness to integrate with popular platforms could have users shopping around for alternative programs and ways of creating documents, which would waste the progress MSFT has made thus far in convincing the average PC user that Microsoft Office is the most reliable and convenient way to get things done.

    • Richard Edwards

      If you’re “fully investing in Office 365″ then OneDrive for Business (or OneDrive for consumer) is your document repository. Of course the challenge comes when you’re collaborating with someone else and they’re using a different repository. Such is life.

  • Relfor

    Aaron what you’ve stated is completely true. Its a fork road where one road reaches downtown with all the nearby services such as Box, Dropbox, and more. And the other road which leads to a dark lonely place in the woods, where Microsoft keeps their customers.

    But as you can see if Microsoft does decide to move closer to “downtown”, its threatened to loose more customers entirely, to the likes of Google. Deep down Microsoft is not confident about its customer loyalty in this new cloud era.

  • TF

    Google isn’t innocent either. When they acquired QuickOffice, they removed Box and all other cloud storage and force you to save to Google Drive. Why is MS always portayed as the bad guy, Google says “don’t be evil” but they are just as evil in this case.

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  • M

    Without walls, you won’t need windows.

    Microsoft is not innovative anymore, neither it’s stable. We need more disruptive software, so we can finally move away from the monopoly and use things that do work as they should.

  • 2eurocents

    Meanwhile, you won’t publish a sync client for desktop Linux.

  • Eric Warnke,

    Aaron, I couldn’t agree more. Open ecosystems accelerate the entire market. Walled gardens and closed systems make these fundamental shifts in IT harder for companies to swallow. Hopefully Microsoft does make good on these promises. Box has always been a great and open partner with Mover and a great example for other cloud storage providers to follow.

  • Richard Edwards

    Commercial entities will always protect their own interests first, and one day Box will so the same. It’s just the way things are. Good business leaders do this in a manner that brings added benefit to existing customers. Great business leaders do this in a manner that also increases the relevance of the product or service to non customers too; generating new business as a result. Let’s wait and see which kind of a leader Satya Nadella is.
    The paint is still wet on Office for iPad, so until Microsoft adds support for “foreign” repositories we have to work around its limitations. Thankfully, Box lets you assign an email address to any content folder, so it’s very easy to get that Office document back into Box from whence it came using your iPad.
    1. Create an “inbox” document folder in Box.
    2. On the folder properties tab, set Allow uploads to this folder by email.
    3. Add an email alias to your address book using the address provided, e.g. Mail2Box.
    4. Email a document opened from Box back to Box from within the Office for iPad app using the email alias.