Apple iCloud: existential threat to Dropbox?

  • April 17, 2020
  • Scott
  • 0 Comments

It’s Friday, so why not an Apple story?  An article on CNET makes the argument that Apple’s new iCloud features for iPhone and the Mac might cause users to say goodbye to Dropbox:

Until recently, the only way iPhone, iPad or Mac owners could share folders of important documents and photos was to use a third-party service such as Dropbox. But now a software update from Apple lets you use your iCloud Drive storage to keep and share a file, whether it’s a work presentation, a collection of GIFs between friends or your kid’s remote learning homework.

Not too long ago, Dropbox was the service to use for storing and sharing files and folders online. With Apple’s iCloud platform expanding beyond single-file sharing, I don’t see myself ever sharing files with Dropbox again. I’ve been looking for a Dropbox replacement since March 2019 when the company announced free users would be limited to linking their account to only three devices.

I think Apple has work to do to make these features easier to access and use- but directionally I think this article makes really clear why Dropbox is under threat in at least the consumer use cases, from Apple.  I wouldn’t cancel my Dropbox account by any means, but I already use iCloud file sharing for very specific use cases (photos, iOS backups, and sharing Apple file types, like Keynote and Pages files, with others), so it is easy to see how Apple could just usurp the category for Mac and iOS customers. There will still be room for both use cases and styles, but I think it will take some momentum out of the consumer (mostly just above free) side of Dropbox.

The real competitive threat to Dropbox is on the corporate side, from Box, however. In corporate, the need to support non-Apple ecosystem is clear for file sharing, and the need to have administrative oversight and access control is also clear. The company “owns” the data, and it’s team members just have access to that data.

Dropbox’s consumer use case may be hard to make if Apple makes iCloud file sharing easier and better (and/or cheaper).  The current state of things for iCloud files feels like a standard Apple slow-roll on features – gradually make it better and more accessible until you’re ready to make some noise about it.  Since it is a capability that can’t help but roll out at scale, I have to assume that they didn’t want to rush any of the capabilities, and may be low-key about promoting it until they’re sure they have the kinks worked out (no Apple Maps roll-outs please).

I don’t see these developments from Apple impacting how we implement collaborative workflows and automations for the enterprise, however.  If I’m wrong, it just means life gets more interesting, but my intuition is that corporate workflows will continue to operate in a multi-platform environment and/or use products that were first designed for business consumption, security, HIPAA, GDPR, etc.

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