Box competitor Huddle makes two announcements during Box’s show week

The technology industry is a funny one, full of passive aggressiveness and false modesties. One common approach is to ride on the coattails of a competitors big week. And so it is today with Huddle.

business huddle

Box is perhaps the best known pureplay enterprise file sharing and synchronization vendor; while its on-again, off-again and finally across the line IPO wasn't a stellar showing, the company, and its effervescent CEO Aaron Levie, has long been one of the more important players in the space. One vendor that has suffered a little for being in the shadow of Box is Huddle. Founded in the UK, and now firmly ensconced on both sides of the Atlantic, Huddle had some early success with government customers, picking up a whole-of-government deal in the UK that really put the young company on the map.

But time moves on, competitors grow in status and Huddle has been perhaps a little quiet of late. So what better time to come out with some announcements than the week that Box, its arch-rival, holds its annual user conference. The fact that Box managed to secure Apple CEO Tim Cook to talk at the event is no doubt bruising to Huddle and every other competitive vendor out there but undeterred, Huddle has some new products.

The company has two announcements today, let's look at them individually. Firstly, Huddle is upgrading its Android application to offer previewing, offline access and commenting on files. Commenting on the news, Huddle execs are, as can be expected, effusive:

“The increasing penetration of Android in the enterprise and the rise of the digital workplace have created a perfect storm for Android apps,” said Stuart Cochran, CTO of Huddle. “In fact, we’ve seen a significant increase in downloads of Huddle for Android in the last quarter alone. We are constantly looking for ways to evolve the Huddle experience for mobile users, and the updates to Huddle for Android achieve just this, making it possible for users to accomplish tasks they would otherwise need to do at their desk, right from their mobile device.”


Hmmm, I'm not really convinced that in this day and age, close to a decade after the introduction of cloud-based file sharing, we should really be touting the release of a new app that allows file previewing and offline access as anything too grandiose. While I'm not going to get into a debate about which vendor's application is more advanced and who delivered what first, quite simply, users should be able to do everything they need to on their devices -- regardless of whether they're mobile or desktop-based. While it's great that Huddle is deeply supporting Android, this should be a matter of course rather than an event that requires any sort of fanfare.

Secondly, the company is introducing "Dynamic Web Acceleration" which uses dedicated infrastructure in a raft of global cities to increase the transfer speed for Huddle files. While this could be seen as a move that is simply another step up in delivering performance, Huddle has chosen to take a swipe at other companies perceived Achilles heels: security. Not only does the new technology increase the speed of file sharing, it also helps Huddle extends their security story -- because files are traversing a dedicated network, Huddle is taking the angle that the files are more secure -- files are encrypted end-to-end on the network.

“Many collaboration solutions on the market today make a compromise between security, data sovereignty and speed as they search for faster transfer rates,” adds Cochran. “We work with governments and highly regulated industries, so a compromise simply wasn’t an option for us. Security is at the core of everything we do at Huddle; it’s what our clients expect from us. With dedicated infrastructure around the world, Huddle’s Dynamic Web Acceleration ensures we continue to meet this expectation while helping their data to avoid the Internet bottlenecks that are slowing everyone else down.”


This is a valid position for Huddle to take. More conservative customers certainly have a couple of concerns around cloud-based solutions -- the speed at which the solutions work and the perceived lack of security. Huddle manages to, at least to a certain extent, address both those issues here. Of course, the devil is in the detail and the web acceleration only relates to the locations that Huddle has it deployed; thereafter files need to traverse traditional networks somewhat reducing the impact of the announcement. Still, it's an interesting angle.

Overall, Huddle is a great vendor that is trying hard to justify its position in the world. I'm not completely convinced that they've yet found that justification and today's announcements do little to change that. That said, it's not a zero-sum game and there's room enough for Huddle to keep on doing what it does.


Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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