Box Developer Edition woos both enterprises and startups

Box Developer Edition simplifies user provisioning and authentication for Box apps, for scrappy startups and established enterprises alike

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Credit: asenat29

At its second annual developer conference, Box unveiled a new method for building Box apps that's aimed equally at IT-driven startups and established enterprises.

Box Developer Edition, according to a blog post from the company, provides enterprise devs with "an independent, developer-owned Box instance -- with full Box enterprise functionality -- dedicated to your app."

Most of the touted utility of Developer Edition revolves around new user-provisioning and authentication models. The first, App Users, allows an enterprise developing a Box app to provision users associated specifically with the app. The users are then authenticated directly with Box. 

The second, App Auth, is the mechanism that allows allows Box apps to authenticate directly to Box via the JSON Web Token standard. Service accounts for apps can be created this way, instead of repurposing existing user accounts (such as a developer's own Box account). As a result, users can work with a Box app but not deal with Box's authentication mechanisms.

The upshot, in Box's view: An enterprise can "[own] the users, the content [of the app] and the authentication," without having to clutter it up with Box-specific logins or other concessions to Box's back end. An example app described on Box's blog features only a username/password login page, with no mention of Box.

While enterprises might appreciate these additions, the features seem less about expanding Box's presence among enterprises, which is already quite solid thanks to its feature set and deep integration with staple enterprise technologies like Microsoft Office. Rather, Developer Edition seems aimed at allowing startups to create applications that can become the next candidates for deep integrations.

Box has been vying for audiences beyond regular enterprises, such as vertical industries, and Developer Edition appears to be part of the same strategy. Said industries are becoming the target for companies that solely served the enterprise -- for example, Apple and IBM partnering on mobile apps for verticals. Box also nods toward that scenario with a newly debuted set of mobile SDKs, offering features like access to Box's preview, browsing, and sharing functionality, all constrained by Box's existing access and behavioral controls.

Right now, Developer Edition is in closed beta with no pricing available, and some of the more appealing possible features are under heavy wraps. The developer documentation notes that while App Users can work with Enterprise Box users across enterprises, "there may be unexpected behavior. We are currently adding additional functionality to make this a seamless experience across third-party and Box applications in the future."