March 02, 2012, 2:35 PM —
I write about Dropbox quite a lot, but for a good reason. Tech writers and industry insiders have to keep and organize drafts, research, photos, and files related to app and hardware testing, and most of us use Dropbox to keep it all accessible and organized across all our hardware. Sometimes the love gets a little unseemly, and someone goes and does something like declare Dropbox a future $40 billion company. At that point, the urge to pop the bubble proves basically irresistible.
And so it was that Farhad Manjoo (a writer I have great respect for, and whom I always seek out to read) referenced Steve Jobs’ supposed quote to Dropbox’s founders: what they had was “a feature, not a service.” And then, the counter-counter-point, from venture capitalist Garry Stage. I’ll try to sum up both posts, as neatly as I can. Manjoo claims that people need more than just files synced between their desktop, laptop, mobile, and web browsers, they need everything synced: browser tabs, the apps open, even files you’re in the middle of editing. Stage claims, rightfully so, that this could only work inside silos of total brand surrender, where people own a Windows Phone, a Windows-8-powered tablet, a Windows laptop, and they’ve fully bought into Windows Live. The same goes for Google, and especially Apple, which will never make quality sync available to Windows and, especially, Linux users.
I think Stage’s point is correct, that none of the big three platform players are interested in anything other total user buy-in, which just doesn’t seem likely, or even favorable. I like my Android phone, my household iPad, and my Linux-powered ThinkPad, and only Google can kind-of-sort-of cover all those devices, in terms of Gmail access, streaming music, Chrome tabs, and the like. And Manjoo seems to want to take Dropbox down a peg or two for sticking to one thing it does very, very well. See this rather popular mini-rant on the Q&A site Quora about Dropbox: you put things in it, those things sync almost always flawlessly, and that’s it. Open any web browser, or open your Dropbox folder on any system, and there be those things.