Box accelerates platform ambitions with new pricing scheme

Credit: Matt Weinberger

Box caught the world's attention earlier this week when it filed its IPO. At today's BoxDev developer event at Fort Mason Center in San Francisco, the cloud collaboration software vendor is keeping the train rolling with a slew of major enhancements to its platform: an enterprise app store, a usage-based (rather than seat-based) platform pricing plan, the introduction of metadata support to enable developers to build smarter applications, and the introduction of an enhanced cloud-based document viewer called Box View.

"Let me just address the elephant in the room: I have no idea why Facebook bought Oculus," Box CEO and Co-Founder Aaron Levie joked to open the event. 

Levie then went on to give a brief overview of the history of Box, offering some impressive customer statistics -- Box apparently can boast 225,000 businesses on the platform, with 25 million users overall. The world is shifting from an "industrial economy" to an "information economy," Levie says, and legacy software simply isn't keeping up. To that end, Box is working to help its developer partners build smarter, more connected applications that help them reach more customers.

Here were the main announcements.

Platform pricing. On the pricing side, Box COO Yeh says that the traditional per-seat model for billing doesn't really work so well for Box anymore now that its ecosystem is growing so rapidly. To better serve enterprise developers building applications on top of the Box platform, the company is introducing an optional billing model based on API usage. Box is selling it as ultimately more scalable and feasible at larger scales. It's free for up to 25,000 API actions, with $500/month for every 25,000 above that.

Metadata. Metadata is definitely a pitch directly at developers, but it's definitely a major addition to the platform. By enabling for the rich tagging of unstructured data (like photos or video) stored in Box, developers can build custom applications that integrate with the Box search engine and surface ever more relevant data and information in a much more timely way. This was announced as a private beta at BoxWorks last fall, but opens to developers in beta today. 

Document viewer. Finally, Box introduced Box View, a cloud-based PDF and Microsoft Office document viewing solution that also enables developers to embed high-resolution, high-fidelity content across the web and mobile devices in HTML. It's free for basic usage, but custom viewers cost $250/month, with flexible pricing for enterprises at higher volumes. 

"It's about creating amazing user experiences around content," says Box Director Ryan Damico, who came to the company when Box purchased his previous company Crocodoc.

Box also highilghted the OneCloud mobile app store that enables customers to pick and choose which Box-powered enterprise applications they surface to their end-users. Yeh pointed out customers like retail chain Family Dollar that are already taking advantage of this to partner up with third-party application developers and find their ideal solution. And given that all of the OneCloud applications use Box on the backend for cloud storage and collaboration, it's a mutual win. 

Box is making moves to enhance its play for enterprise developers, knowing that a healthy and vibrant ecosystem that enables them to take better control of their data is the surest way to move from cloud storage service to true enterprise platform. It certainly goes a long way towards validating their enterprise focus as they work to deserve their valuation ahead of their IPO. 

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