Microsoft: More Integration between Office for iOS and Box

Written by Tim Haight

I'm VP of Technology Services for CGNET. I love to travel and do IT strategic planning.

March 20, 2015

Microsoft: More Integration between Office for iOS and Box

Last month, Microsoft and Box announced that users now can open Box files from within Office for iOS applications like Word, Excel and Outlook. If you are an Office 365 user and a Box user, you can set up your iPhone or iPad to do this with the instructions here.

This removes one of the more irritating issues with Office for iOS and Box up to this point. Until now, you could open a file in Box on the iPad and then choose to edit it in Office, but you couldn’t save the file back to Box.

You still can’t do that, exactly. You have to start in an Office for iOS app, Word, for example. Then, with a few clicks, you can get to a listing of your Box files inside Word, open a file and edit it. When you close the file, changes are automatically saved.

The integration is limited, however. You can’t start a brand new document in Word and save it to Box. The file has to be in Box first. Nevertheless, this is progress.

Box and Microsoft have promised similar Box compatibility for Office Online sometime this year.

Some in the trade press have hailed this integration as evidence of a new era of cooperation between Microsoft and former rivals, with Microsoft’s relatively new CEO Satya Nadella getting the credit. It may be so.

One has only to look back a couple of years to when Office products for iOS would only store files on Microsoft storage like OneDrive, OneDrive for Business and SharePoint. At about the same time, Box was running ads directly comparing their product to SharePoint, saying, “Sharing Should Be Simple.”

Microsoft has apparently realized that the old strategy of using its market power in one area such as Office for iOS, to push its storage, such as Office 365, hasn’t really worked. On the day of the recent Box-Microsoft announcement, for example, Microsoft Corporate Vice President for the Office Team Kirk Koenigsbauer blogged, “Today’s announcements are just one more step on our continuing journey to open up Office in new ways for our customers and partners.”

Box, for its part, has tons of customers who want integration with Word. One Box sales manager, for example, told customers last fall in a meeting CGNET attended that integration with Word for iPad was expected to happen very soon. Instead, Microsoft announced a partnership with Box’ direct competitor Dropbox. Even now, opening and saving files to Dropbox is easier in Word for iPad than to Box.

Microsoft is more open than it used to be, but they will still favor some solutions over others.

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