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Box OneCloud aims to improve iOS document sharing and editing

Document sharing and editing on the iPad and iPhone isn’t always easy. Box OneCloud addresses the problem by integrating with third-party apps and cloud services.

IT pros searching for a better document-sharing and editing option for iPhone or iPad may have found it with Box’s OneCloud.

Box, a popular enterprise cloud storage and file-sharing service, introduced OneCloud for Apple iOS devices this week. In practical terms, OneCloud is a set of APIs to integrate document-sharing and productivity apps into Box’s file-syncing and data storage capabilities. Instead of storing data across various applications, Box users now have the option to open a file from Box, edit that file with an integrated productivity app, and then save their work back into Box.

“I could potentially just live and work with the iPad now, instead of using a laptop for some things,” said Peter Argondizzo, founder and managing director of Argo Translation, Inc., a Glenview, Ill.-based translation company.

Such bidirectional sync has been fairly inefficient on iOS to date, but existing Box customers will be able to use OneCloud to act as a “file system of record” for iOS devices, said Chris Silva, an analyst with the Altimeter Group, a research advisory firm based in San Mateo, Calif.

“If you open a file in iOS, the file gets lost in the app and it’s cumbersome to return the file back into a storage app. OneCloud really solves this problem,” Silva said. “It also captures the back-and-forth comments and versioning of documents, which is important for enterprise.”

Currently, there are only four productivity apps that can take advantage of this round trip feature: Quickoffice, Adobe EchoSign, Nuance PaperPort Notes and PDF Expert. What sets OneCloud’s document-sharing abilities apart is that it has varying degrees of integration with another 30 apps and counting, Box said. 

Chris Yeh, Box’s vice president of platform, said he expects OneCloud to have this syncing feature with all 30 apps in the coming months.

Document sharing with iOS: from “stodgy” to simple

Argo Translation uses Box for document sharing and data storage, and employees use iPads for working on the go. Argondizzo said using the iPad for anything more than “view-only mode” used to be “stiff and stodgy.”

Before OneCloud, Argondizzo said he “couldn’t find a way to easily modify and save an existing document.”

Now, “I no longer have to resort to a crazy workaround just to edit my daily to-do list,” he said.

How Box OneCloud works

When users open a file in Box for iPhone and iPad, there’s a button on the top menu. Clicking that produces a list of compatible document-sharing and editing apps that are already installed on that device. If no compatible app is installed on the device, a different button provides the option to download a document-sharing app through Apple’s App Store.

Compared to services such as iCloud, Dropbox, SugarSync and Huddle, Box OneCloud offers iOS users who edit, copy and save documents among third-party apps and cloud storage services the first viable method for a seamless workflow, Silva said.

Huddle comes closest to these new Box document-sharing features with its continuity maintenance offering, but it doesn’t sync files as well as Box, Silva said.

For organizations looking to boost employees’ mobile productivity, integration with enterprise applications is a major selling point. But Silva cautioned that if there is ever market consolidation within a particular tech segment, Box could find itself scrambling.

“The value of OneCloud is in the third-party partnerships,” Silva said. “The flipside of that is if a document-editing partner gets acquired and you no longer have access to that service, Box could find itself locked out of given areas.”

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The OneCloud feature is a free upgrade to Box’s iOS document-sharing mobile app, and it will be available once all of the apps involved are approved and updated in the App Store, Yeh said.

An update to Box’s Android app that will include OneCloud is coming in May. The company also plans to release a document-sharing app for Windows Phone but didn’t provide a date.

Let us know what you think about the story; email James Furbush or follow @slyoyster on Twitter.

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