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Cloud giants Dropbox and Microsoft get snuggly for better Office integration

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Two of the world’s most popular online storage giants — Microsoft and Dropbox — are forming a partnership for better integration. Considering that Microsoft has its own cloud storage product, OneDrive, one might say that this is like a parent spoiling someone else’s kid because they are more popular at school, really.

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In the next few weeks, the integration will launch with new versions of Office for iOS and Android and will allow users of both services to save into Dropbox directly from Office and edit Office documents directly from Dropbox.

Dropbox offers a brilliant service and is mostly efficient, a partnership with Mircosoft offers them credibility and can now broaden its already-massive market to target businesses. This is a view from Jeff Mann, an analyst at Gartner, the Technology Industry Analysts:

“They are direct competitive, and I think Microsoft would prefer that everyone uses OneDrive,” he argues, “but there’s a couple of reasons why this happened. One is that for Dropbox it gives them enterprise credibility. It’ll look like an endorsement from Microsoft for using it for business, which is something that Dropbox is really anxious to do with their Dropbox for business and moving towards paid licenses”.

“And for Microsoft, it makes it look like they play nicely with others. Because there’s beginning to be grumbling about ‘it’s a closed system, and it has to be everything Microsoft’, and so they’re trying to show that they can play, that they’re willing to open things up, to work with others in the industry, so it gives them props for playing nicely.

“And both of them decided that they’re not really a threat. If they can work with each other, against the common enemy Google, primarily, or to some extent Box or the other competitors that are in this market. Because Dropbox is not going to be challenging Microsoft in any other areas, and Microsoft is unavoidable.”

The announcement does not really come as a shock but it raises questions about the future of Microsoft’s own OneDrive cloud storage product. It’s not so surprising because a few months ago Dropbox unveiled Project Harmony which brought a more cohesive collaborative feature to Microsoft Office.

Commenting on “Project Harmony” and this partnership, Ilya Fushman, head of product for Dropbox and Dropbox for Business, said: “We’re continuing that experience. That experience is really about making it simple and easy to work on the desktop.”

In early 2015, the integration will also extend to the two services’ web apps, and to the newly-announced Dropbox for Windows Phone app. This partnership will also benefit Dropbox users who use Office on their desktops and mobile devices. This also means that users can now link Dropbox directly to their Word, Excel and PowerPoint apps.

“Access to Dropbox content popped as one of the very first [Office for iPad] requests that customers had,” explains Kirk Koenigsbauer, head of Microsoft’s Office Engineering team. “They want access to where their content is. We’re doing it to make sure customers have a great experience.”

Fushman added that “It’s really about creating a deep connection between Dropbox and Office. We think this is a huge win for our users. We think this will result in the best possible experience for people trying to get work done, and trying to get work done on the go.”

“Today, Dropbox has 300 million users, of whom 70% are international, and a ton of them use Dropbox to get work done,” said Fushman. “These people have uploaded something like 35bn Office files. Today, they get a great experience on the desktop, but what we’re doing now is taking that experience to mobile and the web.”

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