Written by Philip Magson
Dropbox has been introducing a number of new features to its iOS app. With more updates on the way, it looks like the company is pushing beyond its cloud storage roots: what is it becoming – and how will this affect the wider cloud storage world?
The Dropbox iOS update, released earlier in May, brings a number of new features including an interesting in-app ability to create Microsoft Office files – something which should offer a huge productivity boost to mobile users. Navigation was also updated: no longer does the app open onto a fixed list – instead, it brings up your most recent files, the idea being these are the ones you’re most likely to need. Finally, a comments feature, already in use on the Dropbox website, was also introduced, letting users bring anyone into the discussion of a document with a Twitter-esque ‘@’ tag before their email or username.
Dropbox is keen to point out that the new iOS updates are going to work together to help us… work together. It’s easy to see how this kind of integration is going to be useful: if I’m in a meeting, talking about a proposal, I can bring up relevant documents immediately on my iPad for reference, jot down any notes in a new word file (or spreadsheet or presentation), and then tag a client to put them in the loop immediately – all that accomplished without ever leaving Dropbox. If the app continues to work as smoothly as it has in the past, I can see this becoming an essential productivity tool for my workday…
The most obvious comparison to make here is Google Drive, which offers users complete integration with Docs, Sheets and Slides – along with space for file storage. But there are more Dropbox updates on the horizon – and not just for iOS – which point towards a larger effort to grab our attention and our business. Recently-updated Dropbox features include:
Universal app for Windows Phones and Tablets: brings continuity to the Dropbox experience on Windows enabled devices, with features like automatic screen-size adjustment, and video upload capabilities.
Features for designers: offers designers a range of new features, including the ability to save .Eps files, a new image previewer and new renderings of .Psd, .Ao and .Svg files.
Business security features: although not exactly a functionality feature, Dropbox announced it was adopting the first international standard for cloud privacy, ‘ISO 27018’, meaning clients in theory know where their data is stored and that they have complete control over it.
It looks like the battle between cloud players – like Dropbox and Google Drive – is entering a new phase: in which services, rather than storage capacity, take centre stage. While Google is luring users away from familiar software with its Drive applications, Dropbox is going to them with its Office integration. Other cloud companies are pushing their own service packages: in May, Box announced that it would be targeting industry sectors with specific cloud solutions, while Egnyte is pushing its mobile capabilities with apps for virtually every mobile device (including Apple Watch).
The common ground between the different camps seems to be a strong emphasis on mobile use – which makes sense: the cloud is supposed to be everywhere, so we should be able to access it wherever we are. No-one service has broken away from the pack… yet and, as long as there are opportunities to win users, and tailor services to our demands, the cloud players – big and small – seem willing to innovate and deploy new products to win our business, which can only be a good thing.