Next week, Microsoft  is expected to finally launch Office 365, its suite of enterprise software designed to bring cloud-based collaboration mainstream. With the global market for such services expected to grow  from $12.1 billion today to $35.6 billion in 2015, the battle for control of the clouds is heating up, with tech giants such as EMC, Apple , Cisco , IBM , and of course, Microsoft, elbowing for market share. But this isn't only a battle of Goliaths--there's a scrappy, innovative David that's been nibbling the heels of its larger competitors.
Box.net , the Palo Alto-based cloud startup which recently raised a whopping $48 million  in series D funding, lets users share files and collaborate from virtually any device connected to the web, and boasts 6 million users and big-name clients such as P&G, T-Mobile, and Dell. Today the company, known for its slick online collaboration tools, announced a collaboration of its own: deep integration of Google Docs.
"We're letting you use an all-cloud version of Box so you never have to download anything to your desktop to edit--you can do it all in the Google Docs environment," says founder and CEO Aaron Levie , who we featured at No. 59 on our Most Creative People in Business  list. "We think it's going to be a pretty competitive solution to what Microsoft is rolling out--we wanted to make it so Google Docs isn't a silo that is disconnected from your Box environment."
Levie has always had choice words for Microsoft--a large banner  hangs in Box.net's headquarters challenging employees to create the dead-simple alternative to Microsoft's products. When it comes to today's announcement, his views on Microsoft's competing offering are no different.
"Microsoft wants to give you your email, your Office, your SharePoint, your communication tools, your server, your storage-you're everything as one solution, which means you have to use everything from Microsoft," Levie says. "It's really bringing the same tired tools as we use today on our desktop to the cloud without revolutionizing the approach--that is, without making them more open, more social, more collaborative."
"Obviously, as a startup, we don't have the resources to build something so vertical," he continues. "So we're incredibly focused on building the best possible products with a focus on our partners."
Partners which include SalesForce, LinkedIn, SugarCRM, and as of today, Google Docs, which Levie hopes will help make the "cloud workforce a reality."
As for timing of today's announcement--only a week before Microsoft's expected release of Office 365--Levie chalks it up to mere coincidence.
"It's more a fact that Microsoft launched things so slowly that they're launching in the same timeline as us," he jokes, referencing how long Microsoft has been developing the product.
In other words, Goliath who?
[Top, homepage image: Flickr user Lawrence Whittemore ]
Follow @austincarr