Dropbox Evolves by Adding New Business Functionality

"We are building a home for people on the Internet," CEO Drew Houston tells a news conference.

Dropbox transcended the online backup/collaboration world April 9 by introducing a new suite of business and consumer applications that will put it into competition for users with larger Web services providers, such as Google and Facebook.

CEO Drew Houston, hosting a press event in San Francisco, described Dropbox as now being in "Chapter 2"--a re-conception of the company from mere online storage carrier to a purveyor of business services that revolve around data storage.

"We're moving from one app called Dropbox to this whole family of apps," Houston said at the conference. "We are building a home for people on the Internet.

"In the beginning, we were this magic folder that was a container for everything. It wasn’t long before we had all these ideas of how to make your stuff more useful. That is really the heart of the next chapter."

Newest Consumer Function: Carousel

Dropbox's newest function is called Carousel, a photo application that enables users to browse and share images stored in their cloud account. This feature clearly puts Dropbox into direct competition with Facebook's own main app, its Instagram photo-messaging app, and Google's Drive and Picasa apps.

Carousel, available starting April 9, also is offered as a separate app for iOS and Android devices. It can take images and videos from a user's Dropbox account and display them on a smartphone or tablet in photo streams, similar to the way photos are displayed in Apple iOS 7 and can be selected out of a horizontal lineup at the bottom of the screen. Thus, the app has a "Carousel" effect.

Dropbox, which has been aimed at consumers--who also have been using the cloud service for business purposes for years--also rolled out an official business version, aptly called Dropbox for Business. It's a split-personality app in that users can use their regular Dropbox for personal files and have another Dropbox instance for work-related documents. Users can easily access both Dropboxes from any of their devices.

"We did this to give admins more visibility and control over their company’s data," Dropbox staffer Ilya Fushman wrote in the company blog. "Remote wipe helps protect confidential information, account transfer helps you maintain business continuity, and sharing audit logs let you track how your Dropbox for Business information is being accessed."

Project Harmony Aims to Enable Collaboration at Work

A new business-oriented app called Project Harmony is designed to help enterprise employees quickly see what changes have been made to documents in real time. This is still in development, with details to come in the next several weeks.

"Our new initiative, Project Harmony, will let you see who’s editing a file, have a conversation with other editors, and keep copies in sync—all right inside the apps you already use," Fushman wrote.

Dropbox, which Houston said now serves 275 million users globally after eight years in business, also has updated several of its current apps.

Mailbox, an email application that the company acquired in 2013, will soon be available for Android and Windows devices. Mobile versions will include a new feature called Auto-Swipe, which learns from a user's routine how to automate certain tasks. Using Auto-Swipe, users can kill spam emails with a single motion instead of having to make a selection and then use another click or function to trash it.

Dropbox's expansion comes as it prepares for an initial public offering that is expected to take place in 2015. Box, one of Dropbox's biggest competitors, recently announced its own IPO, which is likely to take place late in the second quarter.

Valuation Now $10 Billion

Now valued at about $10 billion, the San Francisco-based Dropbox is well-fortified financially. It recently obtained a $500 million line of credit to go with $350 million in venture capital funding it banked two months ago.

Dropbox, which like numerous other IT companies has had to fight off nagging security concerns--especially during the last two years--recently added Stanford University administrator and former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to its board of directors.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...