takes aim at cloud storage market … and Box, the 800-pound gorilla of software as a service (SaaS), today jumped into the general public cloud storage market with what can be an eye fixed toward one vendor chiefly: Box.

At the company’s annual Dreamforce user conference in San Francisco, CEO Marc Benioff launched Chatterbox, a brand new file storage feature within Chatter,’s social collaboration platform. Analysts say it’s a captivating move not just for the cloud storage market, but for the Salesforce-Box relationship.

MORE DREAMFORCE: reveals details of upcoming Chatterbox, Identity services 

MORE SALESFORCE: Five questions for at Dreamforce was an investor in Box last year, section of an $81 million series D round, but today it looked as if it would take a shot at that company by taking Box’s name, throwing it directly to the top of its product and releasing what some consider a competing service. Ben Kepes, a cloud blogger, writes that Salesforce’s new storage option is intended to be a “direct smack at Box CEO Aaron Levie by Benioff.” 

While Chatterbox was officially announced at Salesforce’s Dreamforce conference today in San Francisco, Benioff scooped his own company’s news last week when he hinted at Chatterbox during an interview. Box, acutely aware of the oncoming competition from Benioff and Salesforce, pre-empted the official Chatterbox news by announcing Box Accelerator , that is meant to reinforce the upload speeds into Box to a median of 7MBps.

Analysts say the combined moves have created a undeniable rivalry between two companies that some won’t have predicted.

IDC SaaS expert Robert Mahowald says Salesforce is not just introducing Chatterbox as a blow against Box though, “everybody’s getting into this game.” Announcements from SocialCast and Yammer to increase storage features at their platforms are likely on the way to boot, the analyst says. Salesforce may have a leg up at the competition given the cloud-based CRM software’s ubiquity within the enterprise market. But Mahowald says Chatterbox is intended as a feature add directly to the Chatter social platform, not as a separate business unit within Salesforce, diminishing the direct competition it poses to the firms like Box, DropBox, SugarSync and other cloud storage companies.

MORE CLOUD STORAGE: 5 Enterprise alternatives to DropBox 

Salesforce’s move could still be disruptive to the file storage market though, says Enterprise Strategy Group analyst Terri McClure. Box and other file storage systems, together with Huddle, are engaged on embedding social collaboration systems into their offerings, she says, while other cloud companies integrate their storage with Salesforce. Chatterbox could potentially offset those moves. The secret, she says can be to observe ease of use and pricing. “Salesforce has a giant install base and there’s no clear leader inside the category of online file sharing and collaboration for business – so this would be interesting,” she says.

Salesforce says Chatterbox could be available in early 2013, at which era pricing details may be released.

Network World staff writer Brandon Butler covers cloud computing and social collaboration. He might be reached at and located on Twitter at @BButlerNWW.