Box won’t say it out loud, but it’s now taking on Google and Microsoft with Box Notes

Box Notes, a new free collaborative note-taking and authoring tool to be announced Monday at Box’s BoxWorks conference, is sort of like an Evernote for groups. To me, it threads the needle between Evernote and Google(s goog) Apps or Microsoft(s msft) Office.

For many, Office is feature overkill and Google Apps is an Office knock-off — what Box Notes will let you and your colleagues do is work simultaneously on documents and it uses a-little-bit-creepy-floating-head icons to show who’s doing what. It may remind you of the discontinued¬†Google Wave¬†collaboration tool, but Box is banking on a brighter future for its business-focused app.

Box Notes' floating heads track who does what.

Box Notes’ floating heads track who does what.

Whitney Bouck, SVP and GM of enterprise at Box, said the main reason for Box Notes is to make it easy for you, as a team member, to “fire up a note and, in the context of decision making or crisis management,” get your colleagues literally on the same page to brainstorm etc.

Box Notes isn’t a would-be Office killer (or is it?)

“This is not a full Office suite, but a simple note-taking utility,” she said. Still, you have to ask: How many people use even a tenth of what Microsoft Office provides? Box is fully aware of that. One of Box’s (irony alert) PowerPoint slides shows what happens if you open up all the toolbars in Word. It may be pretty, but it’s not very useful.

Microsoft Office suffers from a glut of features.

Microsoft Office suffers from a glut of features.

Evernote is a popular consumer note-taking application for collecting the snippets of your life and lets you share task lists etc., but lacks real-time collaborative features. Those are apparently coming via a partnership with >LiveMinutes, however.

It’s not just file-share-and-sync, it’s collaboration

Box faces formidable competition in the file-sync-share-and-store landscape in Google, Microsoft, Dropbox and a dozen smaller companies, so it’s trying to distinguish itself with its business-only focus and to carve out a bigger piece of the collaboration market.

It’s worth noting (again) that Sam Schillace, a key force behind Google Docs, is now VP of engineering at Box and Steven Sinofsky, who ran Microsoft Office and Windows, is now an advisor. Both of these guys are big thinkers in enterprise collaboration software.

Prospective tire-kickers can sign up for a limited beta this week at¬†— Box CEO Aaron Levie will announce the product at BoxWorks on Monday. General availability for the free product is year’s end.

The first release promises concurrent editing in real time; collaborator presence (the aforementioned floating heads); in-line toolbar and annotations; comments etc. Plans call for a mobile version (interesting that this wasn’t first down the chute); the ability to embed video, images and audio; version history; and (this is a big one) offline editing. As we all know not even the most ardent web surfer is online 24 X 7.

The demo was pretty cool and I saw lots of ways to use Box Notes at Gigaom. If only they’d lose those floaty heads.

For more from Levie on collaboration, Steven Sinofsky and who writes his tweets, check out our Structure Show podcast.

[soundcloud url=”” params=”” width=” 100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]