Microsoft and Dropbox announced a strategic partnership today in which the two firms will integrate their collaboration services across Dropbox and Microsoft Office on phones, tablets and the web. Reading between the lines, it appears that this move will allow Dropbox to work as seamlessly with Office as does Microsoft's OneDrive or OneDrive for Business services.
This move comes just days after Microsoft announced that all Office 365 subscribers—including consumers, businesses of all sizes, educational users, whatever—would get unlimited OneDrive or OneDrive for Business storage as part of their subscription. So why would Microsoft prop-up a rival service after having so effectively undermined it with the free storage offer?
Simple: The important product here is Office 365, not OneDrive, because that's where Microsoft makes money. And Microsoft makes money on Office 365—and thus the Office apps on PCs, tablet and the web—whether you use it with OneDrive (or OneDrive for Business) or not. By enabling Office 365 to seamlessly interoperate with Dropbox, Microsoft is simply enabling Office 365 to work properly for more customers. In other words, it's a smart move.
"In our mobile-first and cloud-first world, people need easier ways to create, share and collaborate regardless of their device or platform," Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has allegedly said. "Together, Microsoft and Dropbox will provide our shared customers with flexible tools that put them at the center for the way they live and work today."
According to Dropbox and Microsoft, the following capabilities will soon be available to users:
Access Dropbox from Office apps to get to their files and folders faster.
Edit Office files directly from Dropbox and sync them across devices.
Share new or edited files from the Office apps using simple Dropbox sharing functionality.
But that won't happen overnight. The next updates to the Office apps for iOS and Android, due in the next few weeks, will include the required changes first. The web-based integrations between Dropbox website and Office Online will be available in the first half of 2015. And a new Dropbox application will also be made available on Windows Phone and Windows tablets (i.e. in Windows Store app form) "in the coming months."
Dropbox already makes a desktop PC app for file system integration, of course, but the line "access Dropbox from Office apps to get to their files and folders faster" suggests that we'll be able to add Dropbox as a "place" (alongside OneDrive and OneDrive for Business) in the Windows version of Office as well. (As per the iPad shot above.) I guess we'll see.
There's also this fine print to consider: "These capabilities will be available to all Office users with a Dropbox account. [But] Dropbox for Business customers will [also] need an Office 365 subscription."