Box CEO: Mobile is starting point, not an end point

Mobile is a major catalyst for enterprise software innovation -- so long as developers think about designing for mobile-first rather than just as another end point.
Written by Rachel King, Contributor

SAN FRANCISCO -- A major theme throughout MobileBeat 2012 over the last two days has been that the enterprise world needs to grasp that mobile is actually a starting point -- not an end point or something just tacked on haphazardly.

As employees bring more personal devices into the workplace and consumers expect on-demand experiences in every or any possible way, the mobile-first strategy is becoming paramount. 

Box co-founder and CEO Aaron Levie explained during the closing fireside chat on Wednesday afternoon about why designing for mobile-first actually frees software developers to look at business processes from a new and fresh perspective. 

This in turn has the potential to produce new opportunities and experiences that might not have emerged before as more businesses see mobile devices as more than just another end point for software.

"What we're seeing is consistent with every new generation of technology that emerges," said Levie, explaining that there's a paradigm shift where we try to take old technology and just port it to the new medium.

As far as Box goes, Levie pointed towards Box OneCloud, a mobile-first platform that rolled out this spring with an approach that assumes mobile users are utlizing apps that are "entirely different than the ones on the desktop or browser."

"The real fundamental shift is going to come when mobile is treating as the starting point for a business," he continued, positing that the companies that realize that now are going to lead this revolution.

Traditionally, enterprise technology was always delivered first to the CIO and the IT department to spread throughout the organization. But mobile, Levie said, flips that model around and starts with the end user. Thus, that gives employees at all levels a new kind of power when it comes to determining what enterprise apps become the most successful.

"The most competitive solutions will be those that are the best designed and the easiest to use," Levie argued. He also proposed that mobile also opens the door to smaller companies that might never have made a dent in the enterprise market before the medium exploded. 

"With mobile, we now as startups now have a market to go after that is substantially larger than before to go sell enterprise technology," Levie said.

Box vs. Google and Microsoft

During the afternoon interview with VentureBeat writer Jolie O'Dell, Levie commented on Box's competition -- namely Google and Microsoft.

Referring to Google Drive as "an extension of Google Docs," Levie remarked that it continues to have the "exact same challenges as any other Google product" because it is a "Google-first" product. He continued on to say that should give you "a sense of how they are going to build for their environments," including in the enterprise space.

"Given that we're focused just on the enterprise, we think we'll continue to be pretty competitive in that market," Levie asserted. "The business we're in is how you manage your data across the entire enterprise."

On Microsoft, a company for which Levie never fails to have a back-handed compliment, he actually talked more about Microsoft's mobile platform, arguing that it will be three to five years before it will make a dent in the mobile ecosystem. 

He acknowledged that Windows Phone will likely be a good third mobile OS option and that it is nice to see more competition in the market, but otherwise he had little praise for the Redmond, Wash.-based corporation's mobile products.

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