Now Dropbox hopes that its software, and its logo of an open box, will become ubiquitous. In June, Sony Ericsson began bundling Dropbox with some of its Android smart phones. Houston says there will be more such partnerships to follow. “In the future, everything will be with you on every device, and the little blue box will be everywhere, whether it’s your phone or your camera, so you always have your stuff,” he says.
Cloud computing is becoming popular among large companies, too, as a mobile workforce demands access to applications from any device. Many companies are using data-storage software from another startup, Box.net, which claims more than 7 million users, and 70 percent of the Fortune 500, as customers. “To store and collaborate, most organizations today have to buy data storage, buy a search product, buy servers, and operate Microsoft Sharepoint [a collaboration tool] and Office on top,” says company co-founder Aaron Levie. Box.net combines those applications, says Levie.
(Yesterday, Box.net said it raised $81 million in funding, bringing the total investors have put into the company in 2011 to $129 million.)
Levie’s latest offering is the Box Platform, which enables software developers to build Box.net into other software. As with Dropbox, the goal is to create a common cloud data store that many programs can access. Both Google Docs and Salesforce.com can already work with the Box.net platform. “Being a platform is the killer app, because we can become the operating system for every business,” says Levie.
Box.net and Dropbox face threats from large competitors now moving into cloud-based storage. Dropbox has been haunted by rumors that Google is set to launch a similar storage service called Google Drive, and Microsoft is increasingly emphasizing office software with sharing features that competes with Box.net. Levie and Houston believe they hold an advantage: neither company has legacy software to defend. “Even if Google launched Google Drive, it is unlikely to work as well with Apple and other products that compete with them,” says Houston. “There’s a lot of value to being independent and focused on one thing.”