Meet Simon Tan, Product Manager of Mobile at Box

The cheapest way to backup and share files right now is through online cloud storage. There are several companies that have tried to make this process as seamless as possible, Box Inc is one of them. They are the company behind Box, the online file storage, sharing and collaboration solution.

I recently had the chance to interview Simon Tan, the Product Manager of Mobile at Box. Read on to get behind the scene information on the roadmap for Box, challenges during development and many more…

There are many options for anyone looking for cloud storage. Who is your biggest competitor and what do you think gives Box an edge over them?

We’ve seen lots of companies enter the cloud storage and collaboration space. What sets us apart from others is Box’s platform-agnostic approach to mobile. We have native apps available on pretty much every mobile platform out there (iOS, Android, Blackberry 10, Windows 8, Windows Phone and even Firefox OS), which is something a lot of our competition cannot say.

Box was recently selected as a finalist for the Windows Next App Star contest. Tell us about the contest

In January, Microsoft announced the App Star contest, designed to encourage more app developers to submit their creations for Windows Phone devices. Microsoft picked 64 apps that it considered to be the best and then let the public vote for which apps are the best in early March.

Box was one of the final 16 of 9000+ contestants in the Windows Next Star App Competition

Box was one of the final 16 of 9000+ contestants in the Windows Next Star App Competition

When we heard about the contest, we knew we had to enter. The reception by our fans and the broader Windows Phone community has exceeded our expectations, and we’re really glad Microsoft sponsored this contest to give exposure to us and other stand-out apps. It’s been quite a ride!

Did you know we actually made it to the sweet 16 in the Next App Star contest?

So what attracted you to developing a Box app for Windows 8 and Windows Phone?

Box strives to provide the best ways to access content and improve collaboration from any platform that customers are using while in the office or on the road. Windows 8 and Windows Phone were just the latest mobile platforms we were seeing demand for, so we wanted to be there.

Both applications round out our platform offerings (Box is currently available on iOS, Android and Blackberry) and show the marketplace what a first-class content and collaboration app looks like.

Box apps for Windows recently got some updates…could you highlight a few of them?

The big accomplishment is the introduction of our unique Preview capability within our Windows apps. This lets you see documents and media (more than 74 file types) right inside the Box app without the need to download and open the original files in other apps. This also provides the benefit of letting you see content from file types not natively supported on the device, such as Photoshop or AutoCAD files.

File Preview comes to Box for Windows 8 and Windows Phone

File Preview comes to Box for Windows 8 and Windows Phone

We also started taking advantage of some Windows Phone 8 features, like the new wide cycle tile size to show a rotating feed of updates in your Box account. For all the details, check out this blog post on recent updates.

Box apps for Windows have gotten some really good reviews. What would you say goes into developing a great app?

We’re firm believers in building appropriately for the platforms and being model citizens in the marketplaces. People become accustomed to how apps look and function on their devices, so apps deviating from those design guidelines will be met with confusion.

We build everything natively and study the guidelines, so that our apps can feel as close to the built-in apps as possible – this is a big factor in ensuring ease-of-use on any given platform and leads to our stellar ratings and reviews.

Any challenges when developing the native Box apps for windows…

There were some early development challenges when SDKs for Windows 8 and Windows Phone were not really finalized and APIs would change – for example, between the Consumer Preview and Beta of Windows 8. Fortunately, those days are behind us.

What would you say to companies that are shying away from developing their app(s) for Windows 8?

They should do what’s right for their user base and monitor the situation closely. Windows 8 is still fairly new on the scene, and enterprise adoption will only ramp up as time goes on and IT departments deploy it on company machines.

They should also see if any of the unique properties of Windows 8 (e.g. Contracts system) would allow them to offer unique experiences or new twists on old use cases.

For example, the File Picker contract in Windows 8 allowed us to build in access to Box content from any other Windows 8 app, natively and automatically.

Box has come a long way. What plans do you have in store for the future?

Any time there are new platform features announced for Windows Phone or Windows 8, we’ll be sure to evaluate them and see if they let us do anything novel or interesting with our service. Otherwise, we are planning to add features to our apps to bring them closer to parity with our other mobile apps, such as Box for Android and iOS – and we’ll be continuously improving their robustness and speed.

Finally, there are larger platform initiatives that we’ve been working on with iOS and Android developers to bring Box into their solutions and we want to do the same with Windows developers.

Consider this a formal invitation to any developers looking to integrate a robust, enterprise-grade storage and collaboration service into their applications that is 100 percent dedicated to cross-platform support…reach out to us!

In conclusion…

Many thanks to Simon for taking time to do this interview. Special mention to Joshua Cruz – Box PR Associate – for facilitating the interview. We are very excited about the awesome work you and your team are doing for Box on Windows 8 and Windows Phone. On behalf of Windows.Appstorm, I wish you all the best and we all can’t wait to see the new exciting features you come up with.