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Box Office premieres as Microsoft extends cloud integration

Microsoft has hedged its bets in the Office 365 online compatibility stakes, with Box now joining Dropbox as a native file store

Business and personal users of Box with a Microsoft Office 365 subscription will now be able to browse, open and edit Office Online files directly from the cloud service.

Through the integration with Microsoft Office, document changes will be automatically synchronised with Box in the cloud.

"The new model for enterprise productivity depends on creating seamless, device-agnostic connections between the core applications that people use to get work done," said Box co-founder and CEO Aaron Levie.

Later in 2015, the two companies intend to further collaborate on integrations with native Office clients on iOS, Android and Windows. Box is also an inaugural member of the Office 365 Cloud Storage Partner Program, which provides integration with Office for iPad and iPhone and Android devices.

Creative Artists Agency CIO Michael Keithley said the strong connection between Box and Offine Online is key in the way his company communicates and collaborates.

"In an industry where content is critical to every aspect of our business, the ability to access information quickly from any device, at any location, is of utmost importance," he said.

Supporting multiple platforms

The Box announcement follows on from Microsoft’s integration with Dropbox in April 2015 and builds on Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s strategy to be platform-agnostic, while enabling the user experience to remain as consistent as possible.

In this respect, the company has extended Office 365 across iOS, Android, Windows mobile and PCs. While originally tied to OneDrive cloud storage, Microsoft has seen the opportunity to link to popular collaboration platforms such as Dropbox and now Box.

This is probably an important consideration because users appear to have passionate views about both online services. One user commenting on a recent Computer Weekly article said: "Dropbox has the most compelling offering for me, simply because it's the simplest solution. It's a folder. Nothing more needs to be done or configured, and for most users, that's really all they want or need."

But as more files are uploaded into Box and Dropbox, finding documents becomes increasingly difficult. Arguably, this is the beauty of Google's rival Drive cloud storage and collaboration service, which enables file searches using the Google search engine.

Additionally, Google is pushing its own Google Enterprise office productivity platform, but Microsoft has yet to announce any plans to integrate Office 365 with Google Drive, although integration is available via third-party products.

Microsoft has lost a number of high-profile business accounts to Google Enterprise, and while integration with Box and Dropbox is a benefit to existing Microsoft users, winning back business from Google will be difficult. Ultimately, Nadella needs to offer integration with Google Drive natively in Office 365 to remain true to his vision of Microsoft being platform-agnostic.

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