The competitive feature-by-feature battle between the online storage
services has gone up a notch, pointing to a new data
layer between applications and platforms. Dropbox launched new APIs that enable what the company described as "the spiritual successor to the hard drive."
The new features were announced during the first Dropbox-focused developers conference, taking place in San Francisco. CEO Drew Houston told the audience, which included Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, that users are getting "trapped in each of these platforms" on different devices, and the new APIs are intended to add options for cross-platform and cross-app saving and synchronization.
For files that have been created on other apps or other devices, a new suite of tools called Drop-Ins offers access to those files. One kind of Drop-In is a Saver button for saving content on Dropbox so that it can be reached from various devices. Clicking a Saver button on a Web site where you bought an audiobook, for instance, makes the audiobook available from a smartphone or a tablet. CEO Houston described the button as "a save button for a post-PC world."
A Chooser tool is another kind of Drop-In. It offers developers the ability to draw data from Dropbox into their app and open it for use. iOS, Android, Web and mobile Web versions of Chooser are now available, and Saver is provided for the Web and mobile Web, with versions for other platforms coming.
A new Datastore API provides access to content in those files, rather than the files themselves. A task list on multiple devices, for instance, immediately shows modifications across devices. Another use case is to start playing a game on one device and resume it on another.
Focus on the App
Houston told the assembled developers that "today is the first day of your life where you don't have to worry" about where files are stored or how they might be synced across devices. Instead, he said, developers "can focus on making a great app."
The company has been growing by leaps and bounds. It says that more than 1 billion files are saved in Dropbox on a daily basis, and over 175 million users take advantage of the service, an increase of 75 million in slightly more than half a year. There are more than 100,000 apps with built-in integration to Dropbox.
In March, Dropbox acquired the iOS e-mail app Mailbox for $100 million. The purchase was both praised for the elegance of the app, and questioned for the price. On Tuesday at the conference, Dropbox announced it will be launching a new iOS version of Mailbox featuring the first specific integration with Dropbox. This allows a file stored on Dropbox, when e-mailed via a link in Mailbox, to be viewable as if it were an attachment in Mailbox.