Box and Dropbox Race for Long-Term Relevancy

The Spanish InquisitionIn case you missed it, Dropbox has followed the path blazed by Box and has integrated with Microsoft Office. While Box integrated on the desktop, Dropbox is integrating with the Office mobile apps and plans to extend it to the Online Office versions. This is a no-brainer move as anything that simplifies people’s ability to work with content within Dropbox helps keep people using both tools.

On top of all this, Microsoft announced that their Android and iOS versions of Office will now be free. Microsoft is clearly trying to maintain their edge on the office productivity world and Dropbox is aiming to stay in front of people’s eyeballs.

Office Integration=Strategic Necessity

This is a required move for Dropbox. Box has been ahead of Dropbox in the Enterprise File Sync and Share (EFSS) world and Dropbox isn’t going to transition to the enterprise world successfully if that keeps happening. This is an important feature as people hate having to leave Word just to save content to a system.

Any system, EFSS or not.

In large enterprises, the desktop integration is more important as everyone uses those tools but mobile tools are where execs and sales people live. They are happy to use Dropbox or Box but if Microsoft makes things easier with their tools, they’ll switch. If you keep the execs (decision makers) and sales people (revenue drivers) happy, you can close a lot of deals.

Keeping the Desktop

Why did Microsoft do this? Microsoft wants to facilitate people using Office documents on their mobile devices. Those same people are now more likely to use Office on their desktop where they still buying have to buy a license or subscription. If using Office on their mobile devices is too difficult they may be more inclined to leave the Microsoft ecosystem.

Nobody wanted to buy Office again and now they don’t have to.

Microsoft also views Dropbox as a minor threat. They are part of the existing storage ecosystem and if they can keep people using Office, the move to Office 365 is only a step away.

File Sharing is Hard

The real question that people have been answering is if this is the beginning of the end for EFSS vendors? The answer is No.

The end started a couple years ago.

It started when EMC bought Syncplicity. It started when Open Text released Tempo Box. It started when Alfresco built their first file syncing tool.

It started when the traditional Content Management vendors decided to make file syncing a ‘table stakes’ feature. All the vendors have a story and a tool. The problem is they don’t work well. Even if the tool works it usually requires the customer to be on the latest version of the platform which is problematic.

It is the rare vendor about whom I don’t hear horror stories about their syncing tool. I’ve heard stories from Box and Dropbox users as well, but those are considerably fewer in number. It is only a matter of time before all the major vendors have effective tools that can scale effectively.

What about Box and Dropbox?

The Race for Relevancy

Those who state that the EFSS vendors are now “features” are in denial need to take a deep breath for a minute.

Lee Dallas was one of those and he got the analysis on the Dropbox-Microsoft deal wrong. Lee is brilliant but he overestimated the impact of a client integration for the vendors. Still, he is among those who raised a valid point that needs to be addressed.

Dropbox and Box are working to evolve beyond EFSS before the other vendors successfully implement that feature. Part of that evolution is integrating with Office applications. Ask any Content Management vendor how many of their clients want to save files directly from Word. The answer is all of them. I was at a client last week where the lack of that same integration was driving them crazy.

The Office integration is simply the announcement of a feature in Dropbox. They have many more features to go but this isn’t the first step in their capitulation. It is another step in their race to remain relevant. A race in which Box has a large lead.

Assuming that Dropbox and Box are going to succeed is folly. Dropbox has a lot of ground to catch-up and Box need to keep building on its momentum. Both vendors benefit from the lack of agility the older vendors are showing in making EFSS a feature.

What will happen? Who knows? What I can tell you is that these announcements are a sign of respect for the EFSS vendors from Microsoft. Microsoft is having to actively defend their turf.

The race is entering final turn.

10 thoughts on “Box and Dropbox Race for Long-Term Relevancy

  1. I think one edge Box and Dropbox might have is that that are not part of someone elses ecosystem. Most people don’t use one repository and the common denominator aspect of things like Box makes it easy. I know that Microsoft is offering unlimited OneDrive storage, but, at least in my experience, OneDrive isn’t as easy as Box or Dropbox. It should be, it just hasn’t ever seemed like it is. I think this is a good move for Microsoft. If you aren’t making money on storage, why care whose drives are being used?


  2. I’d echo Dan’s comments. Having tinkered with DropBox, Box, GoogleDrive and OneDrive/OneDrive for Business, and iCloud/iCloud Drive, DropBox still remains my preferred cross-device file-sync tool for performance and reliability. OneDrive for Business in particular has challenges for now (including scalability issues that render the ‘unlimited storage’ tag ridiculous) When it’s my data at stake, I’ll pay for the right tool…


  3. There are many ways to skin the “save directly from desktop tools” cat – file sync being just one (and a decreasingly relevant one, given the growing ubiquity of connectivity). A number of vendors offer support for file server protocols (WebDAV, SMB and the like), for example, allowing their repositories to look, act and smell like a traditional file server, and some also implement the “SharePoint protocol”, which is some secret sauce MS built into Office to provide users access to SharePoint features (search, browse, metadata management, checkin / checkout, etc.) directly from within the Office UI.


  4. I wonder if the Box and Dropbox integrations with Microsoft will be the same thing. I thought that Box was integrating with Office WebApps, and Dropbox was getting left panel space in Office for iPad. I saw this as a clear advantage for Dropbox and a competitive difficulty for Box. I thought is was that, strategically, Microsoft is less worried about what Dropbox is doing than it is with Box.


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