Dropbox for Business is only the start: next, work management and office apps

Dropbox, the file sync-and-share company, has announced a major redesign of Dropbox for Business, based on allowing the connection of personal and business Dropbox accounts. The founders, Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowski, announced it yesterday:

We introduced Dropbox for Business to help companies work smarter. And as more teams picked it up, we discovered a new challenge for businesses and users. On one hand, people wanted to access their personal stuff at work; meanwhile, IT admins wanted to keep company data separate and free of personal files. Both needs were real, but people had to choose between two Dropboxes.

We thought about this from scratch and designed a solution we’re excited to share: connecting your personal Dropbox to your Dropbox for Business account. This’ll give you a personal Dropbox and a work Dropbox on all of your devices so you’ll never have to choose between them. It’ll be like having your house keys and your work keycard on the same keychain.

This is a very clever approach since it allows a single login for the user, and provides beefed up controls in the hands of company IT to manage company files, along with an easy provisioning approach. The solution provides 256-bit AES encryption at rest and in transit, remote wiping of the corporate side of accounts, two-step verification (optional), privacy controls over team identities, serious certification and compliance levels, and six nines level of uptime.

The product is priced as $795 per year for up to five users, and $125 per additional user per year.

Here’s the two tab approach shown on the iPhone client:


This is certainly upping the ante for competitors like Box, Hightail, Intralinks, and Druva. (Note that Druva raised $25 million last month in a series C round.)

But the big news is revealed in a discussion between Dropbox execs and Liz Gannes at AllThingsD:

Liz Gannes, Dropbox Adds Enterprise Tools

Dropbox had to spend a year rebuilding its products to add the new enterprise-class controls the company unveiled today. “We’d been nervous,” Houston said. “If we clear off your computer, we might remote wipe all your baby photos.”

Yet, there’s more work to be done. The new version of Dropbox doesn’t include employee collaboration tools. And that feature will be essential for fully taking on Google and Microsoft in the productivity space. “We understand exactly what we have to build next,” said business product head Ilya Fushman.

Well, well, well. This is going to be interesting. Productivity doesn’t necessarily stop with editing Word docs, but also tools to support working socially, task management, curation, and potentially more in-depth solutions. My bet is that they are planning a work management toolset — or planning to buy one — as well as office-replacement apps.

Does Foko, an Instagram for business, make any sense?

I heard that a new ‘X is Y for business’ company was launching at Demo, in this case ‘FoKo is Instagram for business’. My initial reaction was ‘Do we need an Instagram for business?’ After all there are a million ways to share photos already, starting with Instagram, then file sync-and-share apps like Dropbox and Box, and up to and including work management tools like Yammer, Jive, and Podio that support image attachments in sophisticated ways. Still, I thought I’d take a look and see what Foko has to offer.

The app is currently available on iOS and Android devices, although reportedly a web version is coming too.


I installed the free app on my iPhone. The app requires a corporate domain, but allowed me to share with a ‘partner and client’ who was on a Gmail address. However, I never was able to register with that address. I was able to register as an additional stoweboyd.com user, and pass comments on photos, and follow other users.

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The premise is that there are functional areas in the world of business where having a means to share files easily and securely — and comment on them in an Instagramish fashion — is a solid value proposition, one valuable enough that the company will pay for administrative options and controls.

Perhaps a small interior decorating company or catering service would like to be able to share photos of furniture and appetizers among staff and clients, and nothing more. However, perhaps because I am so certain that these photos need to be managed in the context of other information — projects, events, tasks, deadlines, and other conversations aside from comments on photos — I can’t see that this is enough.

Bottom Line

While the magic of ‘X is Y for business’ — like ‘Yammer is Facebook for business’ — seems like a good fit where Y = Instagram, I don’t think it holds with Foko. By bet is that the app will have to be extended   to include something like projects — which have been explicitly omitted as being too complicated — and maybe a lightweight task capability as well, so that photos can be organized in the context of something more than just a sequence of images.

Apple moves to edge out Microsoft Office and Google Drive

One of the major aspects of Apple’s announcements yesterday of new iPads and MacBooks was some pure software news: Apple is going to make the three apps in the iWork productivity suite — Pages, Numbers, and Keynote — free to those buying new Apple hardware. Those with existing licenses will be able to upgrade for free, while those in the middle — existing hardware and no existing license — will have to pay the $10 for each app.

This is Apple stepping up its knife fight with Microsoft and Google in the document wars.

Until recently, users had to pay for Apple’s document tools, and for some, the $10 entry fee seemed too much when you could edit a Word doc on Google Docs, or you had an ancient version of Word.

But now all three competitors have rolled out versions of a file sync-and-share capability, and Apple stepped up yesterday with a giant step forward: co-editing.

I can open a document on my Mac with the new version of Pages, make some changes, add a comment, and invite someone else to edit with me:

Screenshot 2013-10-23 12.56.54

Here’s the doc with a comment (that turns out to be important).

And here’s how it looks on my iPhone.

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Note that the comment is there.

However, when I view it on iCloud, no comment. It’s the same file, but comments aren’t yet supported.

Screenshot 2013-10-23 13.03.15

So, Apple only has two social capabilities implemented — sharing and comments — and the comments are not support in iCloud. Ugh. This is particularly bad because Apple made the sensible decision to allow sharing via browser without requiring others to sign up for iCloud or have a version of the app. But in that case, there is no way for users to share comments, unless they embed them as text in the file.

I presume they will quickly remedy this. I also hope they will implement outside-the-file comments, so that users can create document-wide comments without selecting text. These could be shown in the right margin where other panels are now displayed.

Screenshot 2013-10-23 08.00.08

A ‘Show Comments Panel’ button could be supplied, for example.

At present, the solution is barely adequate for those using the OS X and iOS apps, but fails in the iCloud case. Still, Apple is showing where they’re headed, and putting pressure on Microsoft on the price side of things. Today, an Office user must buy Office or signup for Office 365 to get access to Word, even if sharing is supported for free in Skydrive.

Also worth noting that the upgrade to Mavericks is free: the first free version of Mac operating system software since 1991’s System 7. That leaves Microsoft as the only company charging for an operating system.

Dropbox wants every image you take

Dropbox, the rapidly growing file sync-and-share solution, announced a new feature yesterday for Mac users, to save your screenshots in Dropbox.

I take a lot of screenshots, and until yesterday I was using Droplr, a desktop-and-cloud solution, to capture them. The technique was to use a different key-sequence than the built in Mac screen capture approach, and Droplr capture the image and moves to the cloud. I wanted the images accessible, but not jamming up my hard drive. But this also meant that whenever I want to use an image, I would have to download it. Droplr creates short term URLs, so I have been unable to simply link to the images in my cloud Droplr account. Obviously the company doesn’t want to pay the bandwidth when images are fetched. And this also means I had to subsequently delete those images. A number of annoying steps.

The Dropbox approach is different. By agreeing to use Dropbox to capture my screenshots (the first time I treid to create one after downloading the new version of the Desktop app), Dropbox is now managing them in a Screenshots folder within my Dropbox folder.

margoscreenshotsBecause I have a Dropbox super-duper account (extra storage, etc.) with the so-called Packrat option, I can delete files on my hard drive but they are still accessible on my cloud account. So now I have cut out some steps that formerly were involved with using screenshots in blog posts: I don’t have to download, since they are accessible in my Dropbox folder on my hard drive, and instead of deleting screenshots one by one after using them, I can delete then once a week or month, and not worry.

But leaving aside my use of screenshots, which is excessive compared to most people, Dropbox is slowly encroaching on owning all photos. I have already enabled the Dropbox service that pulls all images off my camera when I attach it to my laptop. Dropbox has also created a new feature to suck all your photos from iPhoto:

iPhoto_splashI confess that I don’t have any photos in iPhoto so I didn’t try this, but the point is the same. Dropbox wants to own all your photos, and to do so in at an unobtrusive, background level.

I am predicting that soon they will integrate the screenshots into the cloud image display capabilities, like slideshows, etc., but they haven’t yet.

Dropbox is sneaking up on us, one file type at a time. They now are smart about images and videos: what’s next? Presentations? Word/Keynote docs? Excel/Numbers spreadsheets?



Evernote for Salesforce announced

Just hours after I was complaining that the new Evernote Market was showing socks for sale (see Evernote wants to sell you… socks?), Evernote has announced something that justifies having a Market in the first place. Yesterday, the company announced Evernote for Salesforce, which was covered by my GigaOM colleague Barb Darrow yesterday.

This integration matches up the note creation, curation, and sharing capabilities of Evernote with the Salesforce CRM and Chatter work media tools.

For example, in Salesforce, an Evernote for Salesforce user would be able to attach existing notes to a customer record, or create new Evernote notes while operating in the Salesforce context. Here’s a list of notes displayed in a Salesforce record:

Screen Shot 2013-09-28 at 07.49.43

And these created or appended notes also show up the the activity stream of Chatter, and are visible and accessible to others who have access to the Salesforce customer record.

Screen Shot 2013-09-28 at 07.51.11



The Bottom Line

When Evernote launched Evernote for Business last year (see Evernote launches Evernote Business), I suggested that the company was clearly moving into the work management marketplace, with a tool intended to be a corporate intranet. However, with Evernote for Salesforce, we see an amplification of that into a tool that extends into the file sync-and-share space.

Note that only a few weeks ago, Salesforce dropped its proprietary Chatterbox file sync-and-share solution for Chatter (see Salesforce drops Chatterbox, announces Salesforce Files), because Salesforce users would rather use other, best-of-breed, file sync-and-share or document repository tools like Box, Evernote, Hightail, Intralinks, or Dropbox. Evernote’s product announcement makes it clear that it is aiming for a place at that table.

The product will be available next week, and perhaps available at the Evernote Market?

Short takes: new release of Intralinks VIA, Wrike Graphite released, Hightail acquires adeptCloud, Zoho Docs for Desktop released

Intralinks has announced a new release of the Intralinks VIA work management solution, extending administrative controls:

from the press release, some of the most notable enhancements, which are largely aligned with Intralinks focus on secure work management:

Setting policies for sharing work streams: Enables administrators to limit a business group’s ability to create specific types of work streams, providing a standard for security on documents. For example, administrators can disable business group users’ ability to share documents with public work streams and require that users create work streams with digital rights management enabled by default, which helps avoid inadvertent data leakage issues.

Determining on which desktop devices users can access their Intralinks VIA Drive: Enables administrators to track the devices a business group member uses to log in and, depending on the type of device, either allows or disallows access. Also enables administrators to disallow devices that were previously allowed – for example, if someone loses a laptop.

Enabling Remote Wipe: Allows administrators to remotely wipe all content from all synchronized devices that are no longer trusted or that fall outside of their control. Significantly, this feature works whether the device is online or offline.

Defining work stream archive dates: Enables administrators to easily comply with corporate archiving policies and manage the complete lifecycle of files.

Creating enhanced reports: Enables administrators to generate granular audit and usage reports that provide a holistic view of the Intralinks VIA environment. This facilitates IT teams’ efforts to comply with audit requirements and analyze business users’ usage of the application.

Provisioning trial accounts for new users: Enables administrators to easily self-manage accounts and add users for free trials or paid accounts for members of their business groups without needing to go back to an account team for service.


Wrike has released a new version of its work management solution, with a much lighter weight and simpler UI design, called Wrike Graphite. Along with this revamped user experience Write has created some new features including an interesting take on the intersection of work journaling and ambient awareness of your coworkers:

The model of “management by walking around”, however funny this title sounds, helped many successful leaders, such as Steve Jobs, to be very effective. Wrike has been delivering this concept through easy info sharing, a flexible model of task following, and convenient real-time notifications on the web, in email, and on mobile.

In Wrike Graphite, we made another big step in this direction: with literally one click on the play button of the timer, you start subtly broadcasting to your team what you are working on. It’s a push-pull model, which means that you’re not imposing this info to your colleagues, but if they “walk by”, they’ll know what you’re working on and will be able to contribute, if necessary. For people who work across the building, country, or globe this is transformative for their online work experience.

Wrike has also invested effort into better email integration, and new task dependencies. I haven’t had a chance to try the new release, but it sounds like a real step forward.

Hightail, the file sync-and-share company formerly known as YouSendIt, has acquired adeptCloud, a file sync-and-share company focused on security.

Enterprise demands for security in the central and critical file sync-and-share services of what I call the Main Stream architecture are increasing (see Salesforce drops Chatterbox, announces Salesforce Files), and this is becoming the battleground for Hightail, Box, Intralinks Via, Dropbox and other competitors.

Zoho has announced Zoho Docs for Desktop, another file sync-and-share competitor, and integrated with Zoho Docs online editors for Office files, now lining up to against competitors like Google Drive, Microsoft Office 365, and Apple iCloud.  I have not used this solution, but plan a more in-depth review.

Salesforce drops Chatterbox, announces Salesforce Files

Last week I was caught up in a number of projects, and wasn’t scanning the web as hard as usual (oh, and there was a thing called Labor Day). So it wasn’t until over the weekend that I learned about Salesforce dropping their file sync-and-share Chatterbox app. Actually, to be clear, Chatterbox was an add on to Chatter, Salesforce’s work management solution.

It looks like Salesforce has wised up to the fact that users don’t want to switch to a Salesforce solution, they want to use one of the leading file sync-and-share platforms out there, like Box, Sharepoint, and Google Drive. So the company has reswizzled its offering to integrate with these market-defining products and will be launching that as Salesforce Files. (By the way, naming a product something as innocuous as <company name> <noun used in a thousand ways> means that people can’t effectively search for it, even at the company’s website.) The product is in private beta, and pricing will be announced at the time of general availability.

This is another proof point of a transition in the industry, where file sync-and-share apps are forming the bedrock of functional apps, like Salesforce CRM. This is what I have been calling the Main Stream architecture. main street

This is a user-centric conceptual architecture, with the user at the top. We’re moving into an era where a stream-based work management solution (Yammer, Chatter, Podio, Azendoo, Asana, Trello, Honey, etc.) provides the baseline for communication, coordination, and co-curation between associates. Users still have direct access to their operating environment, the web, and non-social apps (Word, email, etc.), as well as direct access to functional apps. However, there is a strong trend to connect functional enterprise apps with the Main Stream: for example, accessing customer care tickets in the Salesforce Chatter stream, or getting a task assigned in Asana with a file in Dropbox attached.

The central role of the file sync-and-share is becoming more evident, and the enterprise leading players in that field, like Box, Hightail, Google Drive, and Dropbox, are going to play a more fundamental role than the work management tools.

Salesforce has accepted the fact that tight integration of these capabilities by a vendor might sound good in a sales strategy off-site, but doesn’t satisfy the desires of users who want to be able to make independent purchasing decisions at different layers of the architecture. And users might be lured by the more mobile-centric polish of many of these tools, or their greater attention to security, or their broader array of integrations.

I had hoped that Marc Benioff would say something interesting about this new shift at Techcrunch Disrupt, but the Hackathon shenanigans (like the — no kidding — Titshare app) overpowered every other bit of news there, it seems.


Disclosure: Hightail is backed by Alloy Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of GigaOM Research, Giga Omni Media.