Way back when, Steve Jobs told Dropbox that it was a feature, not a product, which was enough at the time. Now, Dropbox’s reach stretches wide enough, and its influence is great enough that it just levelled up. It’s not just syncing your files and folders anymore. It’s trying to sync literally everything on your phone, tablet and computer. Game saves, settings, contacts, notes — all of it, and on any phone or tablet you have.
The idea is to not just rely on the Dropbox app and its integration with first-party platforms (something it’s always excelled at). Instead, it’s moving forward with what it calls Datastores, a new API that will power third-party apps. It will enable all developers to sync their apps over the cloud. Some, like TextExpander and 1Password already do this using Dropbox, but the implications are broader. It’s the types of things you can get to talk to each other, across platforms.
Think about it. As it stands, a lot of our apps are siloed into one ecosystem or another. Photos on iCloud, game saves on Android, Windows Phone uploads on SkyDrive when you’ve got an iPad that only talks to SkyDrive as an app. The way software works right now, we’re deeply incentivised to buy stuff on one platform. iPhone, iPad, Mac. Windows Phone, Windows 8 tablet and laptop. Android phone and tablet, and, uhh, well not a Chromebook just yet, but maybe at some point. That’s not going to change, but an underlying, widely used network that sprawls across all three would make using differing hardware a little more pleasant.
The name recognition helps. ‘iCloud” is still a deeply nebulous term, tons of people have never even heard of SkyDrive, and most people probably think Google Drive is a Google Docs replacement. But “Dropbox” is basically the Kleenex of “sync my stuff everywhere”. So you can see how a “Powered by Dropbox” or something to that effect could take hold in a way that other failed cross-platform APIs haven’t.
As a bit of a side-note, Dropbox also added some additional functionality with new app features called Chooser and Saver that let you access any Dropbox file from an app, or save anything directly to Dropbox, respectively.
So, this could be good. It could be great, actually! Things like managing a list of reminders on your computer and phone, for example, only works if you’re using compatible apps. But if you’re mixing platforms, like OS X and a Windows Phone, you’re kind of screwed. It depends on developers integrating this into quality apps, which is obviously not a given, but it’s something we’d love to see. [Dropbox]