In a new report today, the story of how Dropbox was approached by Apple for an $800 million takeover bid is revealed in amusingly detail. The story comes via Forbes who describe how, in 2009, Steve Jobs approached Dropbox founders Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi in order to pitch the idea of Apple taking on Dropbox. When the Apple Founder was turned down, Jobs carried on with the idea, the result of which recently went on full display to the world.
“Jobs went dark on the subject, resurfacing only this June, at his final keynote speech, where he unveiled iCloud, and specifically knocked Dropbox as a half-attempt to solve the Internet’s messiest dilemma: How do you get all your files, from all your devices, into one place?”
The question is, could an Apple acquisition of Dropbox have actually made the iCloud end-product better? The launch of iCloud has certainly been greeted with a lot of positive reviews and there’s no denying that what it does, it does very, very well. But, would the Dropbox strategy of storing anything make iCloud better for storing everything?
The storage of content in iCloud is limited to a few select file types meaning that, if you wanted to sync, for example, an MS Office document, it has to be tied to a particular application that enables that iCloud functionality. So for you to sync that MS Word file, Microsoft developers would need to enable iCloud functionality in their Mac Office applications. Of course, there’s no MS Office for iOS so that functionality in itself may not be in any danger of appearing in the near future.
However, Apple has already enabled iCloud functionality in their own iWork software and it works beautifully. In a way, they have done it in an extraordinarily creative way. They have made the application the dominant factor in determining what content is synced and pushed. When that iWork application is opened on either OS X or iOS, the content is all there waiting to be edited or shared. It’s not a organizational system based on files and folders, it is defined instead by the application.
The answer to the Dropbox question is therefore likely going to be related to user preference. Will this new organizational method of sharing their content between devices based on application be the preferred method, or is the drag and drop file/folder method going to remain the most user friendly?
Time will tell, but I do like the freedom that Dropbox gives me. If more iCloud compatible apps appear (which they will), this view is likely to change.