Box v Dropbox v Everyone


While I was at Alfresco, I made a point of ignoring the competition. I always believe that if you can’t win without saying something negative, don’t bother. On the flip side, I didn’t want to draw extra attention to the competition.

Don’t have any of those issues now.

Even though I was quiet, new things still happened. Recently both Box and Dropbox have been making some announcements. While I am not going to go into the details, plenty of people have done that already, I’m going to talk about why any of it matters.

The Five Year View

I’ve been saying for a while that the industry is currently undergoing a transformation.

  • Box: This isn’t just about technology. This is about creating in the minds of IT that Box is the Enterprise option to Dropbox and the easy alternative to legacy Content Management vendors. Box’s platform strategy is solid, but not without risk. There is only one way, aside from self destruction, that Box doesn’t become one of the leaders. That way is Dropbox.
  • Dropbox: They now have the minimum about of features required for enterprises to consider adopting it officially. Dropbox has a much greater footprint almost everywhere than Box does and giving in is an easier course than fighting. Once you leave the IT department, Dropbox is the tool people know about, not Box. They have the name and can get all the money they need to invest in their product. If they want to be one of the leaders in the enterprise, they just have to take down Box before Box hits critical mass.
  • Microsoft: Office 365 is a beast. If they can get their OneDrive working with it smoothly and work through moving people from on-prem to the cloud, they are going to be a leader. Nobody can stop them. Only a backlash from the existing base can really beat Microsoft.

That is only two, Box/Dropbox and Microsoft. There will be three to four leaders in the space. Where will the other two come from to join the ranks?

Who Else?

This is a little of crystal ball effort but there is science at work. It comes down to a measurement of opportunity. As a rule of thumb, any tech more than ten years old is unlikely to make it. It isn’t the technology, but more of a resistance to disruption by those companies. Older companies are less likely to do what they need to do to win. It isn’t impossible, just highly improbable.

Of course, right now it is disrupt or be disrupted. Being adverse risk taking is only going to hurt older vendors in the long run.

Another limitation is the license model. The world is moving to OpEx from CapEx. Any vendor that hasn’t made the change internally isn’t going to make it either.

Finally, there is the cloud. It is the best way to deliver OpEx solutions to people. Vendors have to be able to deliver right-sized solutions to organizations. Extra credit to vendors that realized that companies aren’t going to be able to just switch from on-prem to cloud over night. Any vendor that provides a path for enterprises to make the transition are going to be in good shape.

Alfresco has a fair shot of making it. As for others? It wouldn’t surprise me if a cloud vendor with a commitment to APIs and Open Standards emerged as a solid contender. The ability to work with on-prem solutions and legacy systems would be a big step. Egnyte perhaps?

It is going to be an interesting time in the industry as the tech changes. Nothing is set in stone yet.

Meanwhile, we need to start using Content Management correctly or none of it will really matter.

6 thoughts on “Box v Dropbox v Everyone

  1. Laurence, I predict that neither Dropbox nor Box will make any significant inroads into Enterprise as they have no content applications. SMB yes, but not larger businesses. Microsoft might make it into the Enterprise because they are already there with the content application, but I doubt that they will have any sensible integration capability and that will be the hangup.

    As I said before, orthodox ECM is dead anyway. Content lives within the process and thats where it has to be managed. Standalone ECM is only still there because it is so hard to get rid off once you have it.

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    • I primarily agree with Max and Raoul as well. I currently manage a group of Fortune 500 accounts for our Enterprise Content Network solution and no one is even remotely considering Box or Dropbox. I agree with Laurence on his assessment but strictly for the mid-tier and SMB markets. Our enterprise customers are looking for an on-premise, cloud content solution.

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  2. I’m with Max – I don’t see at all why Box and Dropbox get lumped into ECM – they don’t have metadata, search, retention, workflow – all they have is a modicum of security and a storage platform. As we all know, if its one thing Enterprises *don’t* lack it’s storage platforms.
    Maybe there’s a play for centralizing storage in the cloud rather than dozens or hundreds of file shares and share point libraries – but if that’s all that ECM is going to be in the future then we are all done.

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  3. Responding to both Raoul and Max in one comment.

    ECM, as we know it, is dead. Adoption has failed. This is why Box/Dropbox have the potential to lead, they know adoption. Having the content in a system is most of the battle. Box is building some of the missing things, but the complexity of those missing things is part of the problem.

    Besides, if everyone agreed with my prediction, it wouldn’t be worth very much, would it?

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  4. Microsoft OneDrive does not require Office 365 to sync and edit Office documents. The company I work is moving to Office 2013 (non-subscription) and could utilize OneDrive for Business only. This way, organizations can stay on-prem for applications and only put what they need to collaborate with online.

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