March 17, 2013
Colleague Krishnan Subramanian wrote a post a couple of days ago suggesting that the acquisition of email application Mailbox by collaboration and synchronization vendor Dropbox was some kind of “hail Mary pass” that aims to give them an answer to the deep integration between Google Drive and Gmail. As he sees it, the Google integration is a blow to Dropbox’s enterprise plans and that this acquisition is a desperate attempt to change the discussion.
As is sometimes the case between two people who track this stuff closely, I disagree. And my reasons for doing so have much to do with the rise and rise of Dropbox.
Dropbox never started as an enterprise product – it was all about putting a user friendly, easily accessible and intuitive frontend to file sharing. Over time they realized that amazing uptake of a service doesn’t deliver them revenue, but that providing enterprise-levels of security, robustness and control is an absolute requirement for enterprise customers. This despite the fact (or perhaps more rightly, leveraging the fact, that enterprises are adopting Dropbox very broadly, whether they realize it or not). I’ve been very critical in the past about Dropbox’s seemingly immature approach to how they run their business, but they can’t be faulted in the case of the front end solution they provide. It ticks of all the core requirements for rapid uptake – ease of use, flexibility, intuitiveness and attractive user experience.
As such I see Mailbox in very much the same light. Dropbox is a solution that leverages email highly – I believe that the company realizes existing approaches to email are something of a constraint to increasing viral uptake and that as a way of entering a peripheral but related product space, this acquisition makes total sense. It allows them to continue development and increase uptake of the already massively successful Mailbox product, while at the same time allowing them to explore ways of tying the two services together to provide users with a compelling and better proposition for both.
Consistency of service is one way to increase the uptake of a technology product – this deal allows the company to focus on two related but discrete problem spaces – email and file sharing. The results are going to be interesting to watch.