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Dropbox for Business becomes a platform with new API

Matt Weinberger | Dec. 4, 2014
Dropbox, the sync-and-share startup so popular it essentially created a market category, is finally, finally opening up to become an enterprise platform with the launch of a new Dropbox for Business API that enables team-level app management and integration with third-party services.

This moves Dropbox even more closely into competition with Box, which has long trumpeted its enterprise competence. Normally, Microsoft would also be on the rivals' list, but a recent Microsoft Office 365/Dropbox integration deal indicates they're all buddy-buddy now. So many users, consumer and enterprise alike, rely on Dropbox to store their Office data that it would really only hurt the customer not to go that route. 

Several months ago, I wrote about how Box's expansive platform strategy made more sense than Dropbox's seeming insistence on closing the walls and building everything itself. Now, it seems like the shoe's on the other foot: Box recently launched an initiative to go after specific verticals like media and oil & gas with customized solutions, while Dropbox is trying to fit in where customers need it most. 

It is, of course, still a light-touch approach to ecosystem on Dropbox's part: Letting partners handle the heavy lifting means its core API remains largely unchanged beyond the new extensibility and management.

But Dropbox's Fushman sees that as a good thing, because it means that existing Dropbox-powered apps, many of which are already put to work in the enterprise anyway, need "just a few tweaks" on the backend to be up and running. In the meantime, Fushman said the Dropbox for Business API will be getting first-party investment in the form of further developing those features. 

There are always hazards when it comes to picking a platform, both as developer and user. Look at the contemporary example of music service Spotify, which is completely destroying its own ecosystem by shutting down its apps platform, leaving developers high and dry and ultimately hurting users. But Dropbox has been at this a while, and it really doesn't seem to be going anywhere. It's just picking up its platform game — or at least, making it clear that it sees itself as a platform in the first place.

The real question is whether customer choice, a la Dropbox, will trump prescribed, pre-packaged solutions, a la Box. With a valuation of more than $10 billion at last count, the stakes for Dropbox are higher than ever. 

 

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