Today Palo Alto-based CloudOn, a company known for making Microsoft Office tablet- and smartphone-friendly, announced the launch of its platform for the iPhone and an updated version 3.0 of the software to support the iPad Mini, Nexus 7 tablet, and soon the Amazon Kindle Fire tablet. Looking to make a strong push to be a go-to provider of mobile productivity software, the company will also now be integrating with Microsoft SkyDrive on top of existing storage platforms Dropbox, Box, and Google Drive.
BetaKit covered CloudOn when the company began offering its product for Android tablets, and when it raised a $16 million Series B round of funding. Today’s announcement extends the company’s efforts to be a multi-platform group productivity hub. “We believe we’ve solved a pretty big need in the market in delivering productivity in a mobile context,” said CEO Milind Gadekar in an interview with BetaKit. “We’ve done it in a such a way that we’ve really made it usable or easy for people to access any document they might be saving…and connecting it to a full-fledged Microsoft Office experience so that every aspect of what people are used to works.”
When beginning to approach the idea of expanding to mobile, Gadekar said the company had to step back and ask the question, ‘What does productivity look like on the phone?’ What they realized was that mobile would be optimal for content consumption rather than creation, something most users still do on their desktops, or editing on the go, something their tablet apps focus on. Keeping that in mind, after users open documents they see a full-screen read-only version of a document, which they can tap to edit, add notes and share them with collaborators. The company’s FileSpace is an activity feed that allows users and collaborators to view real-time updates as the document gets edited, shared, and changed.
Being cross-platform is a strategy the company is using to focus its energy on user acquisition. The company currently offers its apps for free and has over two million users, with three million total downloads. Its plan is to move beyond merely offering Microsoft Office mobile optimization and become a group productivity platform, which is where Gadekar said they see monetization strategies playing out. Given that Microsoft is rumored to be announcing the release its own mobile and tablet versions of its Office suite, expected to be made available in early 2013, diversifying will not only be important in terms of gaining new users, it will likely be necessary in order to compete against Microsoft’s own apps.
“Our current or the perceived value is that we’re providing access to Office in a way that’s really optimized for the end device, but that’s not the end goal,” said Gadekar. “Our whole vision and the grander plan is really around redefining productivity and taking productivity to the 21st century.”
There are other startups looking to tackle the mobile and tablet productivity problem, especially given the rise of bring your own device (BYOD) policies increasingly in place at workplaces. Startups like bigtincan allow companies to securely provide access to documents stored on enterprise servers on a variety of devices, in addition to companies like Openera looking to be a document management solution wherever they may be stored. However, they don’t optimize Microsoft Office software and focus more on accessibility of documents.
The company plans to add more integrations and more devices, and will also be looking to provide deeper backend IT integration down the road for enterprises as they seek more secure encryption for where company-specific documents are stored and accessed. With traction among those looking to access Office on their mobile devices, the company will have to continue being wherever its users are while offering a large breadth of integrations to stand out in an increasingly competitive space.