Cloud storage services on collision course with Office 365 and Google Apps



File storage the one cloud to rule and bind them all.


Last week DropBox and Box launched mobile applications for Android smartphone and tablet users to make it easier to store photos and other files on their respective cloud storage platforms.

Box sweetened the deal by offering 50GB free storage to Android users that downloaded the mobile app before the end of March.

The near-simultaneous launches signalled a new phase in the growing competition between the platforms. But a blog post by a venture capitalist whose firm chipped in for DropBox’s astonishing US$250 million investment round in October hinted at DropBox’s ambition to be a cross-platform, independent storage cloud for files of all types.

Bill Gurley, a partner at Benchmark Capital whose partial investment valued the 45 million-user company at US$4 billion, explained that files were only the first step.

“Once you begin using Dropbox, you become more and more indifferent to the hardware you are using, as well as the operating system on that device. Dropbox commoditizes your devices and their OS, by being your “state” system in the sky. Storing credentials and configurations of devices, and even applications are natural next steps for this company,” Gurley wrote.

“Imagine the number of companies, as well as the previous paradigms, this threatens.”

Box’s strategy is no doubt similar.

Microsoft would definitely be unhappy to miss out on being the dominant file storage provider for the cloud given that it already fills that role for desktops with its Windows operating system. Google, the biggest of the cloud-only vendors, naturally considers cloud storage its rightful destiny.

Google and Microsoft already have cloud storage services of their own. Google’s are spread across its applications (Picasa, Google Docs, Gmail) and Microsoft has the consumer and small business-oriented SkyDrive.

Both are readying their own DropBox-like services to combat this threat. Microsoft has announced that the next version of Windows (Windows 8) will save documents directly to SkyDrive, which itself will be combined with Microsoft’s file syncing technology, Mesh.

Rumours of a Google storage service called GDrive or just Drive have surfaced repeatedly for several years but the latest indications are that the service is real and will be launched this year.

One of the biggest trends in how people use the cloud indicates the cards are stacked in the independents’ favour.

Cloud platforms encourage people to share. It is so easy to send someone a link to a photo, a document or an email if it’s already sitting in the cloud.

Sharing is easier when you’re on a device-independent platform. Microsoft is reportedly tying access to its upcoming cloud storage service to the Windows 8 operating system, which likely means that users of Apple or Android devices will have a more limited experience.

Can Google create something that is platform agnostic? It’s unlikely. Android users will always get the first improvements just because Google needs to make sure a cloud storage service works best on its own platforms.

Maybe the future for business will look like this: our files will be stored on DropBox or Box and we will open them with Office 365, Google Apps or any other application as required. And if a better application comes along – no problem, just switch in a second.

It’s a great scenario for users, a nightmare for application providers. I don’t think Microsoft or Google will take this one lying down.


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