Dropbox Platform Aims to Eliminate the Hard Drive
Dropbox is not just for file syncing anymore.
On Tuesday during DBX, the very first developer conference provided by Dropbox, the company introduced a service that moves way beyond mere syncing files and folders between a virtual locker and connected devices. Meet the Dropbox Platform, a foundation to connect the world's apps, services and devices which intends to sync everything under the sun including game saves, contacts, settings, notes and more.
Powering this new service is the company's new Datastore API. "When you use an app built with datastores, your data will be up-to-date across all devices whether you’re online or offline," the company said on Tuesday. "Imagine a task-tracking app that works on both your iPhone and the web. If it’s built with the Datastore API, you can check off items from your phone during a cross-country flight and add new tasks from your computer and Dropbox will make sure the changes don’t clobber each other."
It would certainly benefit consumers to have one set of saved data (settings, game saves and whatnot) stored in a central location so that a specific app – say Angry Birds for instance – can access that data no matter the installed platform (iOS, Android, WP8). It may even encourage consumers to purchase the same app on another platform, knowing that they wouldn't be required to start over from scratch.
Still, how will this affect other services like Apple's own iCloud – which backs up data if the app supports it – SkyDrive, Google Drive and others? It's easy to imaging app developers jumping on board and implementing Dropbox Platform compatibility, and then the company wants to charge each user a monthly fee for such a useful feature. Apple wouldn't go for something like that without its 30 percent cut – Google and Microsoft would eventually be forced to provide the same type of platform.
The new platform also includes the Sync API which was introduced back in February. This API allows the app to work with Dropbox as if it were a local file system on the device, handling all the syncing and caching. Thus because Sync API caches locally, the app works even without an Internet connection – files are uploaded later.
The Dropbox team has also introduced two new Drop-ins which essentially let developers connect to hundreds of millions of Dropboxes with just a few lines of code. The new "Chooser" drop-in now gives people access to the files in their Dropbox from web and mobile apps whereas the new "Saver" drop-in makes saving files to Dropbox one-click simple. These two drop-ins have already been integrated into Yahoo! Mail, Shutterstock, and Mailbox.
"We’re proud that Dropbox has become the home for millions of people’s most important stuff. So we want to be sure that stuff is always available, no matter if you’re on your laptop at work, a tablet on a plane, or a smartphone on the bus," the company said. "Keeping devices and apps synced with your most up-to-date info has gone from “nice-to-have” to essential."
Dropbox CEO Drew Houston announced the new platform during the conference keynote in San Francisco, saying that Dropbox Platform is designed to replace the hard drive, and that sync is the new save feature. He also revealed that other third-party app developers have signed on to take advantage of Dropbox Platform including TextMe, PicMonkey, Asana, Animoto, 1Password, CloudOn, FedEx and Fargo.
"We took a complicated problem and invented a simple solution," Houston said. "Having Dropbox is the first day of the rest of your life where your stuff is just taken care of."