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Microsoft, Dropbox strike give-and-take Office 365 deal

Gregg Keizer | Nov. 5, 2014
Analysts say Microsoft gets more out of the deal, but Dropbox gets to survive.

"Microsoft is playing the 'platform is more important than the pieces under it' card," said Miller, pointing out, as had Rubin, that Microsoft is going against the grain by giving Dropbox a chance to worm its way into Office storage, where the Redmond, Wash. company has been aggressively promoting OneDrive. "To Microsoft, it's more important that people are using Office than that they are using OneDrive."

Microsoft will go wherever it can to get new Office 365 customers, stressed Rubin. "Office 365 is a recurring revenue product, OneDrive is not," he said. "Microsoft wasn't going to do a deal with Apple or Google, so Dropbox was the next best thing."

"The enemy of my enemy is my friend," chimed in Miller, referring to Dropbox and Google. "Every micro move Microsoft makes in some way improves Office 365."

Dropbox, as Moorhead said, gets to survive by tying into the world's most popular productivity platform, eliminating the need to come up with its own editing tools, a chore that would have only ended with "lite" shadows of Office in any case.

"Dropbox would not succeed in building a productivity suite of its own," said Miller. "This gives them a great answer to customers who have invested in Office."

Miller also disputed Moorhead's take that the agreement lets Dropbox live. "A lot of people have been waiting for Dropbox or Box to disappear, but those two companies, honestly, are very strong in their relative spaces, even though storage really is a commodity," Miller said.

Both Miller and Rubin viewed the deal as strategically sensible for each company, and thus a win for each partner. "This seems complementary," said Rubin. "Dropbox is going to be stronger in the consumer and SOHO spaces, while Office is still very strong in the enterprise, including mid-sized businesses."

Miller agreed. "Is it a big deal? For their mutual customers, it is a very, very good thing," he said. "Is it a game changer? No. It's just a good move."

Moorhead leaned toward giving Microsoft the edge in his winner-versus-loser ranking. "It's smart, it gives a public perception of choice," said Moorhead of the ability of Office customers to use either Dropbox or OneDrive. "And in a way, this is a milestone because it shows that Office has won against any of the knockoffs."

All three analysts said that they expect Microsoft to push the partnership beyond what was revealed today by integrating Dropbox with the upcoming upgrades to Office on Windows and OS X.

"Microsoft is likely building this functionality into Office anyway to account for private cloud services," said Rubin, referring to the choices by some corporations to eschew public cloud storage services -- like Dropbox and OneDrive -- for those they manage.


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