There's a lot of things I like about Box.net - starting with its name. It's short, descriptive and a real word. I don't know how they managed to land it, but it's great. It may seem trivial, but you've got to have a good name. On top of that they've got a nice site with a clean design, and a very clear service and value proposition for their customers: Free online storage with premium plans for higher-end customers. Though it's been done before in one form or another, it's an obvious need - how many hacks out there did we see that turned your 2GB of GMail into an online storage system? So right off the bat, these guys are winners in my book - good name, nice design, a service with obvious value and a monetization system right away. Okay, so they're not pushing the envelope in terms of "changing the world" right now, but I'll cut them some slack on that.
Why? Because they've got mobile support. W00t! Basic stuff today with some plans for very cool stuff coming up. From their blog:
We have put off the final touches for the mobile site for nearly a week so we could focus on solving more demanding matters. Finally those have died down a bit, and we were able to put together our mobile site. Itâ€™s very basic at this point. It will let you share your files (that are already in your box account), and let you view photos.
Here is what we are going to have for later in the week:
- Document previews- view .doc/.xls/.ppt in plain text on your mobile browser
- Slideshow functionality (browse through your photos)
- Uploading via emailâ€¦ take a photo, email it to your account
The feature is available to everyone at this point, but it may eventually become a premium feature. You can point your mobile browser to: http://m.box.net. It would be great if you can let us know what the experience is like. I expect this to only work in a mobile browser that supports basic HTML (at the least).
This is awesome stuff! Think about it - they're basically creating a dot-mac for your mobile: A place to put documents and images, and get access to them wherever you go, no matter what format they're in. This is great. And if this is the stuff they have planned for just after launch, one can hope even cooler things in the future. There's lots of possibilities - I made a list here - I wrote it up three years ago last Thursday, so it's a little crufty on some of the specifics, but you get the idea. There's lots of places they can grow in mobile from this base set of services.
The great thing is that these guys are starting on mobile access now even though I'm sure they have a million other things that could be seen as more important. Mobile takes time to get up to speed - they're going to get blown away by how difficult it is to create a consistent mobile user experience for everyone out there. Someone will start to browse the site on their Motorola RAZR and get some weird error and think it's completely broken. Some other guy from Slovakia will try to do an upload via MMS and it'll die for some other reason. It's going to totally suck at first as they work through the issues of offering a real service on the mobile web, but that's great because there's not a lot of others out there that seem to be doing it right now, so once they get it down, it'll be a serious competitive advantage.
The one thought i have about the business (besides the general economics of disk space - which make me a bit nervous), is that it'll be interesting to see which type of service becomes more popular: This kind of "one click" server setup where your stuff sits out on the web someplace and has to be uploaded/downloaded and otherwise managed, or the "access to your home PC" services like Avvenu and FolderShare (purchased by Microsoft and already integrated into Live Messenger Beta it seems). I'm torn about it because even though broadband is getting more common, there's probably tons of people out there with laptops, and no home PC to speak of who need a place to stash their digital stuff... Again, Apple's dot mac has shown us that you can charge real money for server space even if you have your own computer sitting there. But the convenience of having direct access to your home machine is really nice as well. There's probably room for both...