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Dropbox and you: A future where apps drive cloud storage

Jared Newman | April 11, 2014
Price wars and freebies are out. Hooking you into paid services is in.

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For companies in the cloud storage business, standing out from the pack isn't getting any easier, as many competing services are racing to the bottom with both free and paid offerings.

That explains why some providers, such as Dropbox and Box, are diversifying. On Wednesday, for instance, Dropbox announced new apps and services such as Carousel (pictured above) and Mailbox for Android. The hope is that users will consider more than just the price tag when picking a cloud storage service.

If freebies and low prices are all that matter, users have plenty of better options than Dropbox. Google Drive, Box, Barracuda Copy and MediaFire all offer at least 10GB of free storage. And for users who upgrade to paid storage, the costs are shrinking. Google recently slashed its prices to undercut nearly every other competitor, prompting similar price cuts from MediaFire and iDrive.

The price cuts and expanded free storage leave companies like Dropbox with two options: further reduce prices, or find another way to generate paying customers. Dropbox has chosen the latter. With Mailbox and Carousel, the idea is to create apps that become part of users' day-to-day lives--apps so valuable that customers will gladly pay for extra storage if they need it.

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DROPBOX. All those photos you see in Carousel and stored and shared through Dropbox.

This isn't an entirely new strategy for Dropbox. Last year, Dropbox added developer tools that made it easier for apps to store files in the cloud. At the time, Dropbox proclaimed t was trying to kill the hard drive, expecting that users would just store everything online instead.

Dropbox's own apps are a slight pivot on that strategy. Beyond just adding cloud storage as an option to existing apps, Dropbox is creating its own apps where cloud storage is the defining element. Carousel is the perfect example. The app is designed for sharing photos and videos privately with friends and family, away from the prying eyes of social networks. Where are those files stored? On Dropbox, of course.

Box's strategy is different, as the end goal is no longer about just selling more storage. A new tool called Box View converts documents and PDFs into HTML5 versions that can be embedded on the Web. Instead of charging for data, Box is basing its prices on the number of Box View uploads per month. Another pricing model for enterprises allows them to hook into Box's developer tools and pay for the privilege. Box CEO Aaron Levie knew years ago that the race to the bottom was coming, and decided to play a different game entirely.

 

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