Dropbox looking to bridge the platform gap for end users

Dropbox has claimed it will always be committed to helping end users collaborate, no matter what device they're using or on which platform.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor

Dropbox touts it currently has 500 million end users and 200,000 business customers, with belief the company's success to date has been driven by a growing desire from individuals and businesses to create a network of collaboration, according to Dropbox enterprise vice president Ross Piper.

Speaking to ZDNet, Piper believes that while end users have always been the main focus for the company, larger companies have been the greater influencers for the products Dropbox delivers. He explained larger companies are the ones with the most networks and are always looking for solutions to connect different parts of their business, particularly located in other geographies, together.

According to Piper, Dropbox's point of difference has been about being able to deliver a platform that bridges the gap between individuals and businesses, particularly small businesses that make up the largest portion of the company's total business customers.

"There are some companies in the industry that say: 'I focus on this segment' -- that misses the mark. You really have to think about collaboration as crossing boundaries and across ecosystems, rather than I'm for one segment," he said.

Piper added it has not necessarily been an area that many businesses have invested in, despite wanting to simplify the way their employees' work.

While Dropbox has made some significant push towards driving its enterprise business, Piper reassured the company's main priority will always be the end user.

"Dropbox has always focused on end users and individuals, and that's still true. But those individuals are working in small businesses, medium-sized businesses, and big businesses, and I think it's an area in which Dropbox is really taking a leadership role by prioritising the experience and the value of end users," he said.

Dropbox customer experience global head Adrienne Gormley said ultimately the tools businesses are demanding comes back to what individual employees, who are also consumers, are after.

"If you think about how work is evolving, 30 years ago, 20 years ago, even 15 years ago, people worked in offices, email was the latest and greatest, teams had to go into the next office to work with somebody, and the idea of working with somebody who was in another office without flying there was very different.

"What we're seeing is employees or people increasingly want to use what they want to use. So, if I'm a Mac or Windows person, and it doesn't matter where I work ... that's the tool I have ... and I have my idea of how I like to work. There are tools and applications that I can use where I don't have to retrain for ... so we hear from users this is what they want."

However, Gormley pointed out that while offering employees the option to use the device or platform of their choice, it can also bring about unnecessary challenges -- something in which she said Dropbox is focused on resolving, too.

"It starts to cause big problems when they can't work well together, so if I'm a Windows person and I do all my presentations in Powerpoint, and I'm working with you, who's a Mac user, and when we start to collaborate, it starts to fall apart," she said.

Gormley added that Dropbox's incentive is to not compete with existing platforms, but rather be the middle-man between varying platforms and applications, despite recently releasing Dropbox Paper that competes directly with Google Docs, Microsoft Office, Evernote, and Box Note.

Dropbox Paper is currently available in beta version and is due for full version release by early next year.

"We have to be very careful about competing with Microsoft Word or what you can do in Google Docs, both apps are immensely powerful. What we focus on, and a big part of what we do, is independent," she said.

"If you think about Paper you can embed links to Google Docs, and you can embed Excel spreadsheets, and so our ability to cross platform is really where we've positioned ourselves. This a tool for collaboration; it's not an online tool to compete with an offline tool."

In July, the cloud-based storage business rolled out additional features, which it claimed were designed to improve user productivity and workflow for large teams working together.

Some of these new features included the ability to scan documents directly into the Dropbox mobile app, and using the scanned information to create a PDF file. Users will also have the ability to search inside the scanned documents.

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