Box Readies Windows 8 Metro-Style App to Take On Microsoft’s SkyDrive

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Jared Newman / TIME.com

Cloud storage provider Box wants to be one of the first third-party services with a Windows 8 Metro-style app, allowing users to save and load files online instead of on their hard drives.

I got a sneak peak at Box’s Windows 8 app at the CTIA Wireless trade show. It’s quite clearly still in development–crashes and glitches occurred often during the demo–but it has all the features you’d expect in a Windows 8 cloud storage app.

(MORE: How to Choose Between Cloud Storage Services like Google Drive and Dropbox)

Unlike Microsoft’s SkyDrive, Box’s Windows 8 app emphasizes sharing and collaboration in addition to personal storage. From the main menu, users can view their most recent files and folders, and can look at which files were recently updated by collaborators. The app has a built-in photo viewer, but can open files in other apps when appropriate, such as Windows 8’s native document reader for PDF files.

The app also lets users share links to files through e-mail and social networks, taking advantage of Windows 8’s built-in sharing capabilities. With Windows 8’s universal search function, users can look up Box files from the Start screen or from within any other app.

Outside the app, Box lets users access their online files as if they were stored locally. That’s because Windows 8 allows online storage services and other apps to tie into the Metro-style file picker. These services appear right alongside local drives, so they’re easy to access.

For Box, it’s an interesting move because the company’s desktop app is only available for business users at the moment. The Windows 8 app still doesn’t sync files locally like existing desktop apps for Dropbox, SkyDrive and Google Drive, but it does help users access their online files outside the web browser. (However, I was told to “stay tuned” for news on a proper desktop sync app for consumers.)

Simon Tan, Box’s mobile product manager, said the Windows 8 app should be available when the operating system launches later this year, though the company may make a version available for the Windows 8 Release Preview over the summer. Although it’s unclear whether Microsoft’s re-imagined OS will be a hit, Box is willing to take the risk.

“We kind of think that Windows 8 is going to be big,” Tan said, “So we’re placing a bet.”

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