Aaron Levie’s timing could not have been better, though it was probably due more to coincidence than intention.
Google's Just Not that Into Us?
Last Tuesday, in a TechCrunch article, the Box CEO called into question Google’s commitment to its products that don’t generate much revenue via ads.
Google has too many other things to think about,” said Levie. ”They aren’t world class in customer service, and they treat enterprise as a side business. It’s a fraction of a fraction of their revenue stream. You don’t get the Zappos-like experience and they are not innovating on the side of customer support.”
The next day Google announced that it would be discontinuing Google Reader:
"We launched Google Reader in 2005 in an effort to make it easy for people to discover and keep tabs on their favorite websites. While the product has a loyal following, over the years usage has declined. So, on July 1, 2013, we will retire Google Reader. Users and developers interested in RSS alternatives can export their data, including their subscriptions, with Google Takeout over the course of the next four months.”
Upon hearing the news, Levie tweeted this:
Google Reader shutting down. Twitter killed the RSS star.— Aaron Levie (@levie) March 14, 2013
Google just clarified for the Internet what "beta" means.— Aaron Levie (@levie) March 14, 2013
And two days later he tweeted this:
Google, call me first if you decide to shut down Gmail.— Aaron Levie (@levie) March 15, 2013
And while some say that Levie was doing nothing more than poking fun at a giant with those tweets, others are certain that he was planting seeds of doubt in Google’s commitment to certain products and that Google Docs might be one of them.
Taking on the Giants
Why? Because Box, according to TechCrunch, is testing out apps that would compete directly with Google Docs. Levie noted that they would not be Google Docs copycats because they would be more mobile and social by nature. A “sexy” version of Google Docs some might say.
In Levie’s words (again via TechCrunch):
I’m not talking about this as a Google Docs competitor or an Office competitor. We are talking about changing the way that people work and collaborate around content. The question we are asking is, what does real time collaboration look like in the mobile era? Our role as a platform to manage content is to do it in whatever way we can in the future.”
Now the defacing of a giant, widely accepted competitor, is exactly Levie’s style. At the 2011 AIIM/Info 360 Conference, he went after Sharepoint with a vengeance. When he spoke to the press, he said things like:
“We wouldn’t exist if Microsoft didn’t exist. We are solving problems that they created -- so we’re actually happy about that!”
Though Levie is unlikely to directly try to derail Google Docs in the same way (Google is too well loved and respected for that), he will no doubt remind the market of three things: first, that Google is just not that into Google Docs (so you can’t depend on them to invest heavily in the continued development of GoogleDocs); that Box is “all in” when it comes Content Management and that it is so focused on innovation and delivery that users can expect to get useful, innovative new features in short order; that Box’s answer to Google Docs is geared for the Mobile, Social era and the “modern user” versus Google is geared toward Chrome and the browser, and keeping people on the Web as long as possible so that they are more likely to click on ads.
The latter is not what an Enterprise wants.
It’s also worth noting, that according to Google , the percentage of data that gets created in Google Docs is actually less than 1 percent -- meaning many people are still working on their desktops, and often using Microsoft products (including Office 365), or using something else entirely.
This means that the mobile/social Content Management marketplace is still a greenfield for Box and emerging competitors like EMC’s Syncplicity.