Drew Houston, the founder of Dropbox, told the story last fall at Dreamforce about Steve Jobs’ effort to acquire Dropbox, and how Job was committed to ‘kill’ the company with iCloud.
The early versions of iCloud did not achieve that, and Dropbox has been growing very fast, with over 200 millions users.
But what iCloud failed to do in the past may actually come to pass in the future, because Apple unveiled iCloud Drive — along with a very long list of other news — at the WWDC conference yesterday, and it has Dropbox killer written all over it.
How is the coming iCloud Drive different than the kludgey, nearly unusable iCloud of today?
- The design choice to not allow user-defined folders, and to segregate files by type, so that all your Keynote documents were in one folder and all your Numbers documents were in another? Gone. Replaced with the same sort of folder hierarchy we see on our PCs.
- All file types can now be synced to iCloud Drive, and shared across devices.
- On iOS devices, apps will be able to access any files that they have the capability to manipulate, so files can be shared across apps.
I am still unclear on the sharing model of iCloud Drive. I want to believe that folders and documents will be sharable with other users, in the way that Dropbox, Box, and Google Drive have conditioned us. By at this moment I have been unable to confirm that, and perhaps it is an aspect of Drive that is still under development during this summer’s beta — which I have registered for.
Nonetheless, with the lineaments of iCloud Drive becoming clearer, Apple has taken a giant step forward in the general direction of a virtual distributed file system built into iOS and Mac OS X.
This is what I suggested last Sunday:
A real distributed virtual file system built into iOS and Mac OS X — iCloud is kludge, and so are Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, and Microsoft OneDrive. They are patches to the missing web-smart file system. Sooner or later these services will be built into the operating systems on our devices, and Apple may be the first to unveil that.
I hit the mark on that fairly well, and it’s called iCloud Drive.
Apple’s pricing is aggressive: $3.99/mo for 200 GB of storage. Dropbox Pro is $9.99/mo for 100GB. With Google, Apple, and Microsoft trending the cost of file sync-and-share downward, all the margins for start-ups like Dropbox — even ones with millions of users — are going to trend toward zero (with the proviso that high-end and specialized use cases may still need value-added offerings).
I think Houston should have taken Jobs’ offer.