Speculation about how smart watches, wearable computers and tablets are going to change how we go about doing things is all the rage – even I blather about it. After reading an article about the direction Dropbox wants to go, it has made me consider something else recently.
All of these technologies and gadgets rely on cloud operations to make the magic happen. They push off not just your data but a lot of the processing of said data to remote servers that store and operate on the digital you. This is called loosely ‘the cloud’. Since the cloud is relatively new, most applications store your data themselves. For instance, Evernote holds the notes you write, Mint holds your finances and so on.
Dropbox’s announcement that they’d like to be the storage for much more than end user’s files could spark an interesting battle in the back end of the consumer technology world. Usually consumers win when this happens.
Dropbox has some stiff competition in such a battle – and from some rather large names including Google, Microsoft and Yahoo. Just storing files no longer has a future as the world is increasingly moving towards remote processing. The writing’s on the wall: users are storing data in apps rather than saving it outside of programs. To stay relevant, Dropbox will have to court this aspect of the market.
The best part of this battle is that Dropbox is the market entrant and still relatively fresh from offering a new paradigm. Although they have considerable experience in cloud storage, they are rather fresh in terms of hosting app processing. Dropbox has to become the ‘go for it’ company in this fight. Dropbox’s future may be on the line, but the brand has a lot of potential in what has been a constantly growing segment.
On the other hand, Dropbox’s competition are large, slow moving, established corporations, making the market ripe for a disruptive entrant. These sorts of competitors are usually worried about loosing share rather than gaining and are in perfect position to be sideswiped by innovative thinking. In fact, all three have had the rug pulled out from under them in other markets. Dropbox will have to work smartly to position itself, and listen to the market, but success favours the bold. When you’re coming from behind, that’s what you have to be.
With the behind the scenes infrastructure market being fought for, it asks an interesting question as to what we the end user will see out of it. The factors that these companies will be competing on will be speed, space, and of course cost. Competition brings innovation. Improvement in speed, whether that’s in transfer or processing, and advances in the scale of data that can be stored opens the doors to some rather intriguing possibilities. Combining the two creates even more exciting possibilities.
With most mobile devices increasingly relying on cloud servers to do the computational heavy lifting, having more of that capability available would slow down the thirst for more power in mobile devices, simultaneously allowing devices to be smaller and cheaper, as well as go a lot longer per charge. This would allow devices like Google Glass to shrink even more without sacrificing capability and tablets would transform into an always-on appliance with even more ubiquity, just to pick the low hanging fruit.
I am certainly not someone to be trusted with speculating as to whether or not Dropbox will be successful against their new foes, but the battle itself should prove beneficial to all of us at the end of the app chain.