In the latest example of its "cloud-first" approach to workplace productivity, this week Microsoft is making it easier for users to collaborate on Office documents stored on cloud file services, even if those services belong to other providers.
"Real-time co-authoring with Office Online is now available for users whose documents are stored in Box, Citrix ShareFile, Dropbox and Egnyte," said Kirk Koenigsbauer, corporate vice president for Microsoft Office, in a Jan. 27 announcement. "Also starting today, any other partner in the CSPP [Cloud Storage Partner Program] program can enable real-time co-authoring using standard interfaces."
Microsoft launched the Cloud Storage Partner Program last year in a bid to build support for it cloud- and mobile-enabled Office productivity software ecosystem among third-party cloud file storage, sync and share platforms. Early supporters include Salesforce, Citrix and Box, a Los Altos, Calif.-based cloud storage provider for businesses.
Now, the Redmond, Wash., software giant is providing all of its CSPP partner companies access to its popular Office apps (Word, Excel and PowerPoint) for iOS, enabling deeper integration.
"This integration lets users designate these partner cloud services as 'places' in Office, just as they can with Microsoft OneDrive and Dropbox," Koenigsbauer said. "Users can now browse for PowerPoint, Word and Excel files on their favorite cloud service right from within an Office app."
Users can open, edit or create files on their cloud services directly within an Office app, with the changes syncing on their respective cloud file storage accounts. "This integration is now also available with Box—with partners including Citrix ShareFile, Edmodo and Egnyte coming soon.," pledged Koenigsbauer. Microsoft is working on enabling the functionality on other mobile platforms, he added.
Courtesy of a More Open Microsoft
It's a level of integration that never would have seemed possible 11 years ago when Box was founded, according to Aaron Levie, CEO of Box.
"We initially were kind of competitors to them," Levie told eWEEK, noting that Box's technology was considered "disruptive to SharePoint," Microsoft's team content management and collaboration software, at the time. "Microsoft was just a much more closed company," he added.
Since Satya Nadella took over as CEO of Microsoft nearly two years ago, replacing Steve Ballmer, Microsoft has embraced a more open strategy in dealing with the competition.
In addition to building "leading apps on the iPhone," Levie offered the open-sourcing of .NET and partnerships with Salesforce—also a Box partner—as proof of the new Microsoft, whose approach is "going to be representative of what you're going to see more and more from enterprise software vendors."
Meanwhile, Outlook.com is gaining the Box and Dropbox integrations that are currently included with the iOS and Android Outlook apps.
"The Dropbox and Box integrations are now coming to Outlook.com to complement our existing OneDrive support. In the coming weeks, users of the new Outlook.com can attach files from Dropbox, Box and OneDrive right from their inboxes and they have the option to send these files either as traditional attachments or as cloud-based links," stated Koenigsbauer.