The biggest problem, despite the enormous advantages, with the cloud as a solution for businesses and consumers was always the possibility that services would simply go out of business or adjust their strategy in ways that left users disadvantaged. Part of that problem came true this week as Dropbox announced that their e-mail app, Mailbox, was to be shuttered.
Inc reported that this was in stark contrast to their original promise, when purchasing Mailbox for $100 million in 2013, to keep the product not just open, but to improve it over time.
It is also noted that this is part of a continuing trend by Dropbox to focus on the enterprise market, at the expense of their consumer offering as competition for cloud storage and collaboration dollars increases.
Tech Function reached out to cloud computing experts for comment and Ryan Ryke from Cloud Life Consulting commented that many providers are struggling to monetize consumers.
Let’s be honest, most consumers are looking for free services while businesses are actually willing to pay. This is especially evident when it comes something like a mail app. There is no space for ads and honestly not much of a way to monetize it. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that companies are pivoting, more, they are realizing that in order to monetize the usage they need more data points. Take Google for example, if someone uses Chrome, Gmail, and Google Maps, they pretty much know everything about you. Utilizing all of this information is how they begin to monetize their consumer software.
The inability to monetize Dropbox through association with Mailbox may, therefore, have been part of the decision if not enough users were turning into subscribers.
In addition to the Google example Ryke gave, clearer ‘monetizing’ pairs can be seen through Microsoft’s Outlook.com combined with storage and free Office Online apps which lead to heavier users moving to Office 365 with gargantuan storage, and the full-powered offline suite. Zoho offers a limited free mail hosting solution to businesses which leads clearly to businesses upgrading for more power, using their accounting and CRM software and so on. The lack of a clear route to monetizing users may be an early warning for those users not to come to depend on that system too heavily.
Ryke went on to comment that competition and a lack of development pace at Mailbox could have contributed to the eventual downfall of the platform.
Pace of innovation: I used the Mailbox app for a few months. It was great. Then the iOS app had most of the same features so I used that. Then Inbox from Google came out, and now I use that. The point being, if you take your eye off the ball for just a second you will lose market share. There are lots of web properties and intellectual property that are purchased, and left to rot because the purchasing company really doesn’t know what they are buying or just plain fails to execute. A very good example of not being able to keep up is Digg.
Overall it looks like Dropbox remains a strong player in the business sector but with things looking less rosy for consumer grade users who may not provide long term profit for the company.
With increasing competition from a larger number of competitors set to continue, some with better integration into a suite of products, it could well be an ideal time to review your cloud solutions, whether business or personal, and regardless of your current provider as things sure are changing at quite a pace.