Dropbox once told Apple’s Steve Jobs that it wasn’t for sale, but now might be a good time to change its tune.
The bottom’s dropped out of Dropbox’s market. In 2011, it was invaluable. But now, in 2015, it’s clunky — an unnecessary step that feels a bit too far removed from the dozen or so apps we use regularly. Dropbox is decently integrated, but it doesn’t feel like enough now, when we can easily send files through interoffice chat and collaboration platforms like HipChat and Slack that do much more than file-sharing. While many individuals did (and still do) use Dropbox for sharing photos and big, totally legal files, Dropbox is largely for business, used by colleagues to exchange big folders and files. In fact, Dropbox says that 60 percent of its basic and pro users use Dropbox primarily for business.
It’s vital to businesses, this service of making file-sharing easy. Unfortunately for Dropbox, file-sharing is just a portion of the connected service suite that digital work today requires. To put it simply, Dropbox is underpowered for 2015. And given it’s incredibly (read: actually insane) high valuation, that’s a big ol’ $ 10 billion problem.
A better solution than iCloud
While we’re on the subject of services that just don’t quite pull their weight in 2015, let’s chat about iCloud.
My mom calls me all the time to ask if a photo she mistakenly deleted is in iCloud. I tell her what I’ve told everyone else who has ever asked me anything about iCloud: “I have no earthly idea.”
I don’t know what’s in my iCloud. 22.1GB worth of miscellaneous things, apparently, but I don’t actually know what makes up all of those mysterious gigabytes (edit: I checked — it’s a lot of photos, Contacts, and maybe half of my total Reminders), and I definitely don’t know how I would go about retrieving any of that purportedly precious data in the event of a catastrophic iDevice meltdown. I’m confident that I could figure it out, but I haven’t attempted it.
I don’t use iCloud at all. And that’s because iCloud is garbage. It’s only recently graduated from “glorified landing page” to “somewhat usable interface”, but it remains a part of my Apple life that I feel no real need to interact with at all, unless something goes absolutely and horrifically wrong and I’m forced into the iCloud interface as a data Hail Mary.
To be fair, I’m glad that iCloud exists. I’m glad that Apple’s making an effort to save the data that I’m too stubborn or lazy to back up. I’m glad that it’s trying to save me from myself. Or maybe it’s just trying to save a Genius or two from having to explain to a customer that all of his photos are gone because he carelessly dropped his iPhone 6 Plus into a chocolate fondue fountain. Maybe it’s both.
Either way, the fact remains that iCloud is trash, even when it’s helpful, and that’s largely because it is so underachieving. iCloud could be better, but first it has to be useable, and maybe that’s where Dropbox comes in. Because iCloud, too, is underpowered.
When Dropbox founder Drew Houston met with Steve Jobs in 2009 to talk about Dropbox, Houston famously shut down Jobs’ approach to buy the file-sharing service. According to a report from Forbes in 2011, Jobs let Houston know that he was making something of a mistake banking on Dropbox’s service to sustain a company, telling him that Dropbox was “a feature, not a product.”
Now, it sort of feels like Jobs was right. Dropbox doesn’t feel like it’s future trajectory is up. In fact, it kind of feels like the rain has started and the Dropbox is getting soggy. Dropbox isn’t going to get much further without becoming easier, more meaningful and high-powered. Dropbox isn’t going anywhere but down as a standalone app, but if it can find a way to make itself a part of our lives the way it began to before iCloud, Google Docs, Box and the rest, it might stand a chance. And, well, if there’s one company that’s become the leading expert on making itself an essential part of daily life, it’s Apple.
Theoretically, if Dropbox were to see the soft, brushed aluminum, backlit writing on the wall and decided that it wanted to take Apple’s offer six years later, would Apple even want to buy?
Well, yeah. It should, anyway.
Tiptoeing into enterprise with iPad Pro
Apple wants a bigger piece of the enterprise pie. iPad Pro proves that. Dropbox has a very solid base of enterprise users (for now), and perhaps a more robust file sharing, synching and management platform for the super-sized tablet would tip the business scales in favor of Apple’s answer to the Surface Pro.
Furthermore, as previously discussed, Apple’s iCloud leaves a lot to be desired–bringing in the world’s most valuable cloud service is far from the worst idea Apple’s ever had (a right that I have assume is reserved for the rollerball on the Mighty Mouse). Beyond that, Apple could really benefit from something of an ecosystem overhaul. Between iPads, Apple Watches, iPhones, Apple TVs and iMac/MacBook/MacBook Pros, many people now find themselves with more than one iDevice. The better those devices communicate and sync data, files, photos, contacts, etc., the more things “just work”, as Apple likes to say.
Perhaps best of all, never again would a Genius have to try to explain what the hell iCloud actually does.
It’s time to revisit Apple buying Dropbox originally published by Gigaom, © copyright 2015.
Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:
Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.