Apple's phone is a terrific gizmo with one major short-coming: It's a silo when it comes to big files. But lots of businesses rely on their ability to share to complete projects, services such as drop.io, SharePoint, and Box are popular solutions. But until now, the iPhone hasn't helped make those services any smarter. Box announced today that it's expanding its ecosystem to the iPhone--not with an app, but with an entire API. In so doing, they've given us a glimpse of what might be ahead for the iPhone in business.
Box's API, which they call OpenBox Mobile, lets you integrate Box's collaborative tools into any app your company builds. The company makes its own Box iPhone app, but they're also figuring that your company might want to build its own homegrown app with your specific needs, and that you'll want it to share documents, PDFs, images, audio and video with other people on your team. (The API is also coming to Palm, Android, and Blackberry soon.)
"We see a lot of the growing pains our users face," said Box Co-Founder Aaron Levie. "There's content they want to access--content from all sources." (Above, the app iThoughts, one of the first to use OpenBox Mobile.)
Building in accessibility from scratch is possible for any savvy iPhone developer, but Box will make the process faster, and it will let a company's iPhone users tap into their specific Box account however they want. Sean Lindo, Box's community manager, calls the API "a bunch of easy to use tools for integration," but they're actually more than that. "Lots of iPhone apps let people create media on the phone," he says, whether it's on QuickOffice or using the camera. "We're letting you share off the phone."
While much of the iPhone buzz these days is about gaming, tools like Box's represent a new field of potential for the iPhone that has yet to be fully tapped: The enterprise market. Most companies have existing infrastructure that would be useful, even crucial to access from anywhere, but one-size-fits-all apps don't work; that's why they built up their big custom system in the first place. The potential, says, Lindo, isn't lost on Cupertino. "Apple is thinking a lot about enterprise apps now," he says. "Things like intranet apps, they can be pretty powerful."
Already, the developers of apps like iThoughts, Smart Recorder, iBlueSky (seen above), and ReaddleTo are working with Box to include functionality it their apps, and popular apps QuickOffice and JotNot will launch new Box-integrated versions soon. You can check out the Box developer community here.