Boxworks 2013: Box Notes Is Not A Google Docs Competitor – Sam Schillace


Box SVP of engineering and Google Docs pioneer Sam Schillance is annoyed at reports suggesting Box Notes wants to take on his former creation

Box Notes is not designed to compete with Microsoft Office or Google Docs and will instead carve its own niche in an increasingly experimental productivity tool market, Sam Schillace, senior vice president of engineering at Box, has reiterated to TechWeekEurope.

Schillace was a co-founder of Writely, which was bought by Google in 2006 to form the basis of its web-based office suite, but Box Notes, a real time cloud-based collaboration tool, is completely different, he said at the Boxworks 2013 event in San Francisco.

“This is an annoying question I get all the time,” he said. “It’s less interesting to talk about whether this has been done before. We have had this habit of talking about the productivity tools market as very zero sum because we had Microsoft having thirty years of a monopoly.

This is not Google Docs

Box Notes“I think that monopoly was based on some economics that are very different now. The world is a much more open and connected place.

“I’m kind of annoyed at all the articles being written saying Box is taking on Google Docs. If I wanted to ‘take on’ Google Docs I just wouldn’t have left, I’d still be running it. They didn’t fire me, I left voluntarily.

“I think [Google Docs] is a great product doing some really great stuff and I’m very proud of it. It’s an awesome tool, but do I think it’s the only productivity tool the world needs? No, I think there are plenty of opportunities.

“You don’t get very far in the industry if you say, ‘oh, somebody’s already done something similar, I just won’t bother.’”

Schillace said the three products would co-exist and be used in different environments and existing Box customers would the target, with their feedback used to influence future versions of Box Notes.

Future features

Box Notes is not designed to be a full rich text editor, said Shillace, and many features familiar to word processing users have been removed from the application. Schillace adopted a similar approach to Writely and said there were some things missing from Notes that might get put back in, just like with Google Docs.

For example, Google Docs didn’t have a word count initially, but following numerous requests from students and reporters, it was eventually included. He believes this ‘clean slate’ will benefit Box Notes in its role as a communication tool as it’s far easier to add new features than remove them.

However he agreed that Google Docs paved the way for services like Box Notes as it allowed people to realise they didn’t need Microsoft Office, which had been ubiquitous.

“It’s very hard to make more than one inferential step at a time,” he explained. “Something that was on the web, but looked like a desktop was aBox, Boxworks 2n important intermediate step.”

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