and collaboration service Dropbox is moving its Dropbox for Business service from beta to general release. The company is also busily announcing new features as it tries to keep ahead of the features arms race among online services.
Dropbox for Business was launched as a beta in November, and on Wednesday it became generally available. Additionally, the service has been rebuilt so that a user can have a Dropbox for personal files and another for work, with access to both from any device. The company says it has more than 275 million users and over four million businesses.
The service also includes several capabilities that IT often wants, including remote wipe, the ability to transfer an account if someone leaves, and audit log sharing to keep track of how data is shared inside and outside of a company. Dropbox for Business requires at least five users, and the cost is $15 per user every month.
A new initiative called Project Harmony allows collaboration for users employing Microsoft Office applications like Word, Excel or PowerPoint. Available later this year, Harmony permits a user to see who's editing a file, have a conversation with other editors or keep copies in sync within an app. The company said this can help avoid having to create multiple versions of a document for collaborators. The new features are being compared to those in Google Documents.
The company also unveiled on Thursday its Mailbox for Android app, as well as a new function called Autoswipe built into Mailbox that automates common actions by learning from what the user does. A private beta of Mailbox for Mac has also been launched.
Carousel is Dropbox's new gallery app for photos and videos that combines Dropbox-stored photos with those on your phone and automatically provides back-up for new photos.
Pictures are automatically organized by event -- from every angle -- and hundreds of photos can readily be shared with others, whether or not they have Dropbox accounts. Users can store as many photos and videos as their Dropbox plans allow, and the media files are accessible from any device.
Encouraging Platform Loyalty
Ross Rubin, principal analyst at industry research firm Reticle Research, told us that the online storage space is receiving a lot of attention because of the IPO filling from Dropbox competitor Box.
"Dropbox may be feellng some need to show momentum in their business ," he said. He added that the new features, whether for photo sharing or for collaborative use of Microsoft Office apps, are designed to encourage usage and platform loyalty by enticing users to become more involved in the collaboration services.
He noted that, even though Dropbox is placing more emphasis on its business offerings, it's oriented toward the SOHO or small office/home office market, rather than the enterprises where Box is focused.
Jeffrey Mann, vice president for research at Gartner Inc., told us that many of the announcements yesterday were "not that big of a deal" in themselves because they're "simply the things they announced late last year being fully available."
The exception to that, he added, is Harmony, which represents Dropbox "trying to keep the attention of those looking for cool stuff so that they keep their reputation for usability and delighting users."
Overall, he said, the additions "represent a big change for Dropbox as they make their long, slow move into the enterprise ."