Dropbox – Data Ubiquity And An Agnostic Platform Approach to Hosting
Previous attempts like Apple’s MobileMe and Microsoft’s Briefcase aside, the notion of having files available to users across all platforms is a simple concept but has turned out to be very difficult to execute. In the end, users are often forced to email themselves files or carry physical copies of files around on discs and external drives to manually upload the latest edition of their files in a very inefficicient of system of syncing mobile, desktop or storage devices together.
Dropbox is a startup founded in 2007 that launched their flagship services in 2009 and created a simple virtual box on a whole host of devices, agnostic to which platform the user chose – PC, Mac, iPhone, whatever. The company’s motto, coined during a pitch meeting with venture capitalists is succinct: “It just works.”
In 2009, just a few months after launching their service, Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi – Dropbox’s twenty-something year old founders were called for a meeting at Apple to meet with the team handling the computing giant’s MobileMe service. The question posed floored them: “How did you get in there?” referring to Dropbox’s seamless integration within OSX’s “Finder” application. The answer was that they had essentially hacked their way in, using the program’s processing server to insert their own code. Ironically, though MobileMe was an Apple program, Apple’s own programmers were not allowed to make changes to Finder’s code. The meeting wasn’t an interrogation, it was an honest inquiry, as MobileMe was quite publicly floundering in the marketplace and an inability to synch files was the biggest deficiency it faced.
With no access to source code, Dropbox had discovered the assembly language that draws the icons and then squeezed in their icon, repeating the process for every different permutation of the operating system including Tiger, Leopard, Snow Leopard, 32 bit, 64 bit – all the while achieving the task that MobileMe couldn’t because the Dropbox team was not hindered by Apple’s own cross-department refusal to cooperate.
Similarly, Dropbox worked out integration with Microsoft Windows products, iOS and Android making it a complete cross-platform solution that “Just Works.” Dropbox’s competitors have been playing catch-up, Apple’s MobileMe became iCloud, which works really well for users who inhabit an Apple-only closed universe, Google has launched a web-based collaboration service accessed through web browsers, Amazon has its CloudDrive, an online storage locker, Microsoft Has Windows Live featuring SkyDrive which brings some automatic synching and cloud-based Windows programs to those who inhabit a Microsoft-only universe.
However, in an era when each tech titan tries to create walled gardens and closed ecosystems, Dropbox continues to capitalize on their technical lead, as the only competitor that offers true cross-platform ubiquity. Now Dropbox is opening up and allowing other services to piggyback on their system. Notably, Yahoo Mail is integrating Dropbox functionality with their email service, as are app makers like as Shutterstock, Check, Outbox and Loudr.
Dropbox seeks to become the universal standard and if their vision comes to fruition, it will mean that users will have finally have seamless integration of all of their data, so a game of Angry Birds can begin on an Android phone, and continue on your iPad. Switching from one smartphone platform to another would be seamless and painless as your data becomes truly ubiquitous – always available regardless of where you are and what device you’re choosing to use.
Just the way carriers have tried for years to artificially restrict access and treat their bandwidth as a branded resource rather than a generic option; device makers may soon start to find their software advantages eroded as developers produce apps and services that work across all platforms.
The idea of data ubiquity and an agnostic approach to access is something that NationalNet Hosting adopted long ago. When our clients seek collocated servers in our data center, custom software or unique management options that serve their business best, our team always takes the approach that is best for our clients. Even in instances where a fully managed hosting client requests certain hosting changes we are aware of the importance of keeping the same agnostic approach to technology in place. In an era where so many great new ideas are being launched by competing platforms, being able to cherry-pick the best of them and apply them all properly is the clearly the best way to go.
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