Monday, December 17, 2012

Dropbox: The Linchpin

John Gruber (reacting to Warren Ellis):

The scary part though, is that one recurrent theme I see in nearly every single “how I write on the iPad” story is Dropbox. It’s the linchpin in the workflow. Scary, because Dropbox is outside Apple’s control. Scary, because if not for Dropbox, many of these people would not be using their iPads as much as they are. Scary, because Apple’s iCloud falls short of Dropbox.

He says that Apple should buy Dropbox. This might be a good move for Apple, but I doubt it would be good for Dropbox users.

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He got it exactly wrong. Which is to say - exactly right but the polar opposite conclusion.

Apple, aside from the whole "having access to people's files" thing, should make an iCloud service that works like the part about Dropbox that people like.

They have Documents in the Cloud and it's not swept anyone off their feet quite yet. Watching a Pages document update right in front of you is a neat demo, but it requires the right phase of the moon, patience and a goat sacrifice. It's a demo of how they just don't arrive at what people want.

What people want is filing. Maybe that's not hierarchal trees of folders. But it's not a return to the Windows File Manager/original MFS model with one level of folders.

What people want is collaboration. Not just between people but between apps.

What people want is freedom. I'm not about to call the Dropbox API a jewel of architectural design to be aped at the nearest opportunity, but it sure as hell lets people and apps get things done.

Apple shouldn't make Dropbox money, it should make it irrelevant. (And no, not by actually temporarily banning Dropbox-using apps, which they did a while ago over some subscription this-or-other detail, but nice try.)

@Jesper Dropbox, despite (necessarily) being a giant hack, seems a lot more reliable than iCloud, so there’s probably some knowledge and experience that would be worth acquiring. But, you’re right, if Apple would simply change the nature of the service that iCloud provides it could make Dropbox irrelevant for many of the common use cases.

Conversely, if I were Dropbox I would be working on a much higher level API/SDK that apps could use, so that people see it as more than just a cloud filesystem.

Second point: maybe they are doing that. But is it really that clear that a hammer factory should start building prefab houses?

[…] We’re a long way from 2012. […]

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