I use Box.net as an online file back-up and storage solution, and chanced upon a blog post by Box.net’s senior business development manager Matt Soldo talking about a new reseller relationship with Austin, Texas-based Motion Computing, who produce ruggedised tablet PCs.
Positioning itself as “Your plan room in the cloud” (a familiar US refrain), Box.net is targeting construction customers – “helping them replace cumbersome FTP servers, facilitate electronic bid management, as well as centralize and archive project resources”. It continues: “Integrating Box.net with Motion Computing’s rugged tablets is an important step towards fulfilling Box’s mission of enabling businesses to easily share and access their content from anywhere.”
Box.net, like drop.io (see post), clearly sees construction as a good potential market, but the extent of its collaborative capacity may not be enough for some customers. While there will certainly be designers and contractors who want a simple file-sharing/archive solution, there will be others who may eventually be frustrated that they cannot use the same solution to mark-up and comment on CAD files, or to manage a multitude of inter-related complex workflows relating to construction-specific processes (check-lists, RFIs, early warning notices, etc).
The reseller arrangement with Motion will help raise the profile of Box.net among potential construction customers, alongside a handful of other solutions (Motion also has partnerships with Latista, Vela Systems, Bluebeam, Tekla and FreightTrain), but I wonder if the relationship will be that fruitful. After all, customers investing in the on-site convenience of tablet PCs might also be looking for more efficiency savings through use of more advanced construction collaboration solutions, and a Motion PC will presumably be able to access any browser-based application its user selects. For example, if I was working on-site using a tablet PC, I would be more likely to opt for a sophisticated solution that offers more than file-sharing – Motion has a case study (see webinar) showing how Skanska used Vela on one of its tablets to reduce certain site processes from three days to one day (see also this Vela YouTube video). In addition to tablet PCs, PDA and smartphone devices have also been successfully deployed to deliver construction-specific process support on-site (see recent post Business Collaborator goes mobile too).
Box.net’s construction offering can be added to the growing list of inexpensive web-based applications (eg: Collabor8online, Glasscubes, e-Grou, Incite Toolbox, ShowDocument, drop.io, Clouds UK, Woobius, Colaab – all covered in just the last year on this blog) targeting a very price-sensitive market – its cost-consciousness heightened by the current recession, of course. Box.net is available from US$15/user/month for business use.