I love Dropbox.
I started my ten-person company in the '90's and back then we had files saved all over the place. So a cloud based storage system was like heaven. With Dropbox, we're saving, synching and accessing files from all of our devices, anywhere, anytime. Talk about a great way to leverage the cloud.
But now Dropbox is doing something that I'm sure the company is hoping will keep customers like me around for a long time - and also attract new ones. But it's a very risky move.
According to Inc.'s Jason Aten (a fellow lover of the application) Dropbox has redesigned its website so that it can be "the center of your team collaboration efforts by bringing the cloud-based productivity tools you already use, into Dropbox."
The company is doing this through integration. For example, if you're a G Suite user it will put your team's Google Docs, spreadsheets and presentations in a more accessible place. However, if you're a fan of Microsoft Office, you'll get to your files much quicker too. Better integration has also been added for popular collaboration and communications apps like Slack and Zoom.
"Building on our history of helping organize your content, the new Dropbox brings cloud content together with traditional files so you can keep it all in one place," the company writes on a blog post announcing the changes. "It's the Dropbox you know and love, but better."
Better yes. But definitely risker.
Dropbox already integrates with collaboration tools provided by Salesforce, Adobe and Autodesk. Now it's deepening its ties with Microsoft, Google and Slack. But do these companies give a toss about Dropbox? They may say so publicly, but rest assured, I don't believe they do. Why? Because most, if not all of them have their own file and storage management services. Microsoft has OneDrive Google has Google Cloud and Drive. Salesforce has the Sales Cloud. Slack has...well...Slack.
My company uses Microsoft Office (we're a Microsoft partner). We have many clients who do the same, or they use G Suite. These companies are working hard to build their enterprise applications into a one-stop-shop solutions for businesses of all sizes. For example, Microsoft introduced Teams - its Slack-killer - a few years ago and has seen significant growth. Google recently announced its intentions to build more collaboration for enterprises around Gmail and G Suite. Salesforce, Slack, Adobe, Zoom and others also continue to build more enterprise tools.
All of this is heading towards one goal: a customer for life. The idea is to throw out as many services as possible to draw the user in and make them so reliant on your applications that you stop using all the others. Clearly, Dropbox sees this trend. They understand that these collaboration tools made by their so-called "partners" provide most of the same file and document storage capabilities that they do. So they had to do something to up their game. But instead of developing their own office or communication tools they decided to step up their integrations. Unfortunately there's a strong chance that this approach could backfire.
Now that Dropbox is making it easier for business owners like me to use Microsoft Office I'll be introduced to and more inclined to take advantage of more Microsoft services like OneDrive which pretty much comes with the same features. At what point do I just bite the bullet and abandon Dropbox for OneDrive? Don't businesses - particularly small businesses - desire less integration and more features and functionality coming from one suite of products made by one software vendor? Isn't it just easier for me to get rid of other apps - like Dropbox - and just drink the Microsoft Kool-Aid? That is exactly the seed that Microsoft, Google and others are planting and it's probably too late for Dropbox to catchup.
In his column, Aten is justifiably disappointed that in order to use the Google Docs integration, users are being made to disable browser protections against cross-site tracking, opening them up to more ads and less control over their privacy. That's definitely something Dropbox should fix.
But then again, considering the risks of Dropbox's latest new integrations, the company may soon have bigger issues to face. Like survival.