Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Inside Dropbox’s Quest to Bury the Hard Drive

If you haven’t tried Dropbox yet but would like to, my referral link (for free extra storage) is HERE. Thanks.

Drew Houston, the 30-year-old CEO and cofounder of Dropbox, is supposed to be having his Steve Jobs moment. In an auditorium packed with elite coders and Silicon Valley insiders in July, Houston is debuting new features he says will transform Dropbox into the mobile era’s answer to the hard drive. This is DBX, the company’s first developers conference. It’s Houston’s bid to convince the software industry to buy into his grand vision—and the Wi-Fi isn’t working. The demo team is trying to show off a digital drawing app that allows you to sketch on your iPad in, say, San Francisco and have the sketch appear simultaneously on a colleague’s device anywhere in the world. It was meant to be the centerpiece of Houston’s pitch for his ambitious new strategy. Dropbox is known for its supremely useful cloud storage service, which lets you drop files into a folder that can be accessed from any computer. But going forward, the company wants to power a new breed of syncable apps that would let you share any kind of data with anyone across any device. In theory it’s an epic shift that would put Dropbox at the center of everyone’s digital life, turning it into a powerhouse on the level of Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Apple. But it’s hard to see that when the demo doesn’t work. After an awkward moment, Houston returns to center stage. But if the glitch has rattled him, he doesn’t show it. “You’d think that I would be sad about what just happened,” Houston tells the audience. “Actually this is a really good omen.” He explains that the Wi-Fi also failed when he was onstage launching the original Dropbox in September 2008. Back then he was trying to sell the world on just how wonderful and simple his new magic folder was. Instead, nothing happened. But in the five years since, it’s clear: “Things worked out.” Indeed. In little more than half a decade, Dropbox has grown from a few lines of code banged out in a bus station to a go-to service with 200 million users saving more than a billion files every day. So there’s reason to believe it can pull of its plan to become what the company calls the “pervasive data layer.” In this vision, Dropbox acts as a kind of virtual infrastructure that lets you access all your digital stuff whenever, wherever—via tablet or PC, iOS or Android. Leave off playing Angry Birds on your phone and pick up the game at the same spot on your iPad or your television or the touchscreen in your car. Devices become dumb windows for accessing the information—your information—in Dropbox’s cloud. That’s where your stuff lives. And you’ll pay Dropbox for more space because you will want to put more stuff there.