Redmond explains thinking behind Office-Dropbox integration.
The battle for cloud storage dominance is no longer about capacity, according to Microsoft the day after it announced the integration of Office with cloud rival Dropbox.
Office users with Dropbox accounts will be able to edit Office files directly from the application and sync those files across devices, while Dropbox for Business customers will need an Office 365 subscription.
Redmond will provide the integration due to customer demand, telling CBR that while it is competing with Dropbox and other vendors with OneDrive, customers will remain with the vendor that gives them the best user experience.
Michael Ehrenberg, CTO for Business Solutions, said: "The price of storage is being pushed to zero by us and everybody else. We can’t just draw walls around our products and not interact with the things that people are choosing to use. I think it’s great and the guys that run OneDrive, they get it.
"But it’s not just the cost of storage, it’s the experience that’s got to be great. The customers today, they’re not going to tolerate a bad experience when they can get a great, simple experience someplace else.
"It’s up to OneDrive to deliver that great experience, I don’t think free unlimited storage is enough to pivot it. Its going to be about seamless capability."
He identified the key differentiators as the above-mentioned seamless capability to work across different devices, feeding into Microsoft’s cloud-first, mobile-first strategy, in addition to document retention policies and responding quickly to customer calls for new capabilities.
Dropbox is not the first cloud storage company Microsoft has integrated Office with – it follows a similar agreement for Office 365 integration with the enterprise-focused Box in July.
Box CEO Aaron Levie said at the time: "The competition for business customers will no longer be about how much information a solution enables them to store, but rather, what it allows them to do with that information.
"Our deep integrations into the Office 365 suite expand our commitment of building capabilities that make content stored on our platform more valuable, information more powerful, and companies of all sizes more connected."
Box, which offers unlimited storage for business users, evidently sees the cloud storage market similarly to Microsoft, and the latter’s agreement with Dropbox appears to scupper Box’s 365 selling point.
But Sanjay Machanda, head of product marketing for Office, did not rule out further integrations down the line, suggesting they would be fuelled by customer demand.
He said: "Dropbox was driven by what we heard from customers. The numbers are pretty clear: of the user base Dropbox has, a huge number of users and the content they share on Dropbox happens to be Office files.
"Nothing [has been] specifically announced by the other players, but we’re constantly looking at the scenarios customers are telling us about where it makes a lot of sense to have deeper integration."
He added that it was good for Office growth to be able to reach into different cloud storage providers, too. The flipside of that, added Ehrenberg, is productivity tool rivals branching out into other storage providers before Microsoft.
"We shouldn’t lose potential Office customers because we don’t do a great job supporting Dropbox," he said. "The bad scenario is that it’s suddenly easier to use Google Apps with Dropbox and then that becomes a bad thing for us.
"We need to make the connections that make sense for our customers, and if that means working with Dropbox that’s great and then that means, guess what, OneDrive you’ve got to compete."