Dropbox highlights productivity enhancements in rollout of new services

Dropbox kicked off its 2017 product launches with a pair of major announcements Monday aimed at improving users’ productivity at work. The cloud storage company announced the general availability of its Paper document collaboration service, along with the closed beta of a Smart Sync feature that gives users easy access to every file shared with them in Dropbox.

Paper , first announced in 2015 , gives users a shared workspace to work with one another on documents. It’s designed to be the product people use for collaborative tasks like brainstorming and taking meeting notes.

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Network World Cloud Computing

Dropbox prompts certain users to change their passwords

Dropbox is asking users who signed up before mid-2012 to change their passwords if they haven’t done so since then.

The cloud storage service said it was asking users to change their passwords as a preventive measure, and not because there is any indication that their accounts were improperly accessed.

Dropbox said it was taking the measure because its security teams learned about an old set of Dropbox user credentials, consisting of email addresses and hashed and salted passwords, which it believes were obtained in 2012 and could be linked to an incident the company reported around the time.

In July 2012, Dropbox said its investigation found that usernames and passwords recently stolen from other websites were used to sign in to a small number of of Dropbox accounts. It said it had contacted the users affected to help them protect their accounts.

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CIO Cloud Computing

Dropbox Paper is now available to all as an open beta

Ten months after Dropbox first unveiled Paper, the collaborative writing tool entered open beta on Wednesday and is getting mobile versions for iOS and Android.

Paper allows teams to work on documents together in the cloud. It makes it easy to add text, images and embedded videos from YouTube, Google, or Dropbox itself. Users can also add programming code, which gets formatted automatically. And they can create to-do lists and assign tasks on those lists using the @ symbol.

Since its debut in private beta, Paper has been used to create more than a million documents for tasks like brainstorming ideas and capturing meeting notes, Dropbox said. Based on lessons learned along the way, Dropbox has improved the software with better tables and image galleries, more powerful search, and notifications via desktop and mobile.

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Computerworld Cloud Computing

Dropbox Paper is now available to all as an open beta

Ten months after Dropbox first unveiled Paper, the collaborative writing tool entered open beta on Wednesday and is getting mobile versions for iOS and Android.

Paper allows teams to work on documents together in the cloud. It makes it easy to add text, images, and embedded videos from YouTube, Google, or Dropbox itself. Users can also add programming code, which gets formatted automatically. And they can create to-do lists and assign tasks on those lists using the @ symbol.

Since its debut in private beta, Paper has been used to create more than a million documents for tasks like brainstorming ideas and capturing meeting notes, Dropbox said. Based on lessons learned along the way, Dropbox has improved the software with better tables and image galleries, more powerful search, and notifications via desktop and mobile.

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CIO Cloud Computing

Dropbox enhances its productivity tools across the board

Dropbox just dumped a ton of new productivity features on users of its file storage and collaboration service that are all aimed at making it easier for people to get work done within its applications. 

Updates to the Dropbox app for iOS allow users to scan documents directly into the cloud storage service, and get started with creating Microsoft Office files from that app as well. The company also increased the ease and security of sharing files through Dropbox, and made it easier to preview and comment on files shared through the service.

These launches mean that Dropbox will be more valuable to people as a productivity service, and not just a folder to hold files. It’s especially important as the company tries to capture the interest of business users, who have a wide variety of competing storage services they could subscribe to instead. 

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InfoWorld Cloud Computing

Dropbox wants to stretch desktop file storage to infinity

Dropbox has a futuristic vision for how its users will be able to share massive files and have quick access to them on their computers, without their hard drives overflowing.

The cloud storage company announced a new initiative at its Open conference in London on Tuesday called Project Infinite. It’s a push to create a new Dropbox interface that allows users to see all of the files they’ve stored in the cloud in their computer’s file explorer without requiring them to keep local copies of each document, image, spreadsheet or other file. 

With Project Infinite, users will be able to manage their files in the cloud by moving them around inside the Mac OS X Finder or Windows File Explorer, just like they would any local files that are taking up space on their hard drives.

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InfoWorld Cloud Computing

Dropbox quits Amazon cloud, takes back 500 PB of data

Dropbox moves 90% of its data off Amazon AWS, in favor of its own private cloud. Dropbox built its own, custom storage servers, to store half an exabyte or more, mirrored across three regions.

Sometimes, you get so big that public cloud pricing doesn’t make sense any longer. But building those servers from scratch and moving all that data sound like an enormous undertaking.

In IT Blogwatch, bloggers feel thirsty for a delicious ginger beer. [You’re fired -Ed.]

Your humble blogwatcher curated these bloggy bits for your entertainment.

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Computerworld Cloud Computing

Unsurprisingly, Dropbox to shutter Mailbox and Carousel, focus on businesses

Dropbox has abandoned its efforts to take over your smartphone. The company announced today that it will shutter two applications, Mailbox and Carousel, in 2016 as a result of its new focus on helping workers collaborate with each other. But it’s hard to see how chasing business workers instead of targeting consumers will change Dropbox’s core problem: That it remains a feature convinced it was a product, then a startup, and then a company that’s raised more than $ 1 billion.

This isn’t a new argument. People have been saying that Dropbox is a feature instead of a product almost since the company’s file storage service first debuted. There’s no denying the convenience afforded by that service. Being able to trust that files would appear on multiple devices, or on the Web, without having to carry around a bunch of flash drives filled with important documents was huge. But was it a strong enough lodestone for a billion-dollar company to be built on?

In December 2009, Steve Jobs warned Dropbox co-founders Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi that Apple would compete with their service if they declined an acquisition offer. He kept that promise. Apple released iCloud in 2011. Google followed it with Google Drive in 2012. Microsoft introduced several cloud tools. And other companies like SpiderOak, Box, and Amazon introduced tools that either competed indirectly with Dropbox or operated on a much different scale.

Dropbox’s core feature is still as amazing as it was a few years ago. It’s just that no-one can purchase a smartphone, tablet, or laptop without being prompted to use a competitive service. Using an iPhone? Set up iCloud. Created a Google account because of that new Android tablet? Use Google Drive. Replacing that Windows ME-running hunk of plastic with a newer PC? Here, try OneDrive. People can use sync services without ever having to know that Dropbox exists.

The same is true of the services being shuttered. Mailbox was ahead of its time: I remember downloading the app, swiping through my inbox, and wondering how I could ever live with another email app. But then it languished, seemed to be ridden with bugs that were never fixed, and I switched to Gmail’s official app. Other companies improved their email apps all the while, with Apple updating Mail, Gmail tinkering with Inbox, and Microsoft debuting a brand-new Outlook.

Carousel also worked fine. But that was exactly the problem — it was just fine. All the cloud services that Dropbox competes with for file synchronization also offer photo storage services. Products like Google’s new (and popular) Photos service takes it a step further by automatically sorting images and generating montages. Carousel doesn’t do anything that iCloud, Photos, and other services don’t do. So why bother setting up a service that can, and now will, disappear any moment?

Now, Dropbox will focus on its business customers. That begins with services like Paper, a collaborative writing app, and new-yet-boring features like PDF-editing. Are either of those going to be enough to convince businesses to choose Dropbox over competitive services that do the same things? (There are many, like Google Docs and the Microsoft Office suite, for starters.) The company seems to think that focusing on these apps and shuttering its consumer products might help.

No matter what happens, you have to give Dropbox credit. It survived after Jobs warned it about its prospects in 2009. Then, when Farhad Manjoo wrote in 2012 that Jobs was right, Dropbox kept moving along. Now, three years after that, the company is in the same position. Critics keep saying it’s a feature, and Dropbox keeps proving them wrong — or delaying the inevitable. The question is which.

Unsurprisingly, Dropbox to shutter Mailbox and Carousel, focus on businesses originally published by Gigaom, © copyright 2015.

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Dropbox and Adobe partner to make PDF editing less annoying

The PDF is the cockroach of file formats. Long after civilization has ended, an evolved form of one of the planet’s hardiest insects will attempt to read a PDF containing everything Homo sapiens learned before it went extinct. And it will not be able to do so because it’s using an outdated version of Adobe Reader.

Alright, so it might not be as dramatic as all that. But there is a certain sense of dread associated with PDFs: Even though many of us have to send them, I don’t think anyone’s ever particularly excited about having to work with them. Which is why Dropbox and Adobe have partnered up to make PDFs a little less terrible.

The partnership makes Dropbox the back-end for Adobe’s PDF-reading apps on Mac, PC, iOS, and Android. The desktop integration is available now; iOS will come next, then it’ll eventually make its way over to devices running Android. In doing so, it makes PDF transfer a little bit less of a hassle for office workers.

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Dropbox can already open PDFs in the company’s mobile apps. But you can’t edit them (beyond renaming them, which is all but useless), which means they have to use other applications. Soon, instead of having to open Dropbox, find a file, then send it to another app, you’ll see everything right inside Adobe’s app.

Here’s how Thomas Hansen, Dropbox’s global vice president of sales and channels and a former Microsoft executive, explains the partnership’s benefits:

This means you can do more with your PDFs, wherever you are. You won’t lose time waiting to get back to your computer to redline or electronically sign a contract, or add feedback to a design mock. And no more printing out a PDF, writing comments on it, scanning it, and emailing it as an attachment. Instead you’ll be able to open a PDF from Dropbox and edit it using the Adobe apps, then save and share your work easily through Dropbox.

That makes sense for mobile devices. But the integration on desktop is far less interesting. It’s not that inconvenient to locate a Dropbox file on a PC or Mac, and if you’re using a Mac you already have Apple’s PDF-handling app installed. It seems like this announcement was rushed out before its best part was ready.

Still, it could make things easier for some people who use Dropbox and Adobe Acrobat Reader (who knew they added the “Acrobat” in the middle there?) instead of any other combination of file synchronization service and PDF editor. The PDF is here to stay — we might as well take improvements where we can.

Dropbox and Adobe partner to make PDF editing less annoying originally published by Gigaom, © copyright 2015.

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It’s time to revisit Apple buying Dropbox

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.

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