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Can Dropbox Buy Its Way into the Enterprise?

2014-11-June-IntheDoor.jpgIf you don’t have enough time or talent to build it, maybe you can buy it. At least if you have as much money as Dropbox.

OK, we admit that we’re being a bit sarcastic here, but we actually have enough information to present a pretty good case around Dropbox trying to buy its way into the Enterprise File Sync and Share (EFSS) market.

We won’t bore you with all of the details, but consider that last week Dropbox acquired Droptalk and that late yesterday MobileSpan announced that it had been acquired by Dropbox as well. 

Each of these purchases seems to be destined for the Dropbox for Business side of Drew Houston’s $10 billion startup and both of the technologies — and the teams that come with the deals — have the potential to help the massively popular, 300 million user (mostly) consumer file sharing service become more enterprise-worthy.

This is not to say that Dropbox for Business hasn’t come a long way, but it’s still far behind industry leaders like Box, EMC Syncplicity, IBM, Microsoft and others in the enterprise space.

Want proof? Last month Box announced that it had struck a deal with 300,000 employee GE while Dropbox for Business announced that it had won a deal with Spotify, which a LinkedIn search suggests has less than a few hundred employees. CrunchBase pegs the number of employees as much lower.

What Exactly is MobileSpan?

We could give you the Dropbox-doctored spin from MobileSpan’s site, but we found a better description on (former) CEO of MobileSpan, Sanjeev Radhakrishnan’s, LinkedIn profile:

MobileSpan’s File Sharing for the Uncloud feels like Dropbox to the end user but works directly off a company’s existing file shares or SharePoint. No changes to the DMZ, no VPN needed. It supports offline, and resyncs documents, handling conflicts.

The Uncloud, of course, is a company’s existing intranet — your documents, systems, and permissions. It’s everything you already built up and manage for your company.

It takes just 60 seconds to setup on a Windows machine and it’s free forever for small teams.”

If it works as promised and can be delivered with Dropbox’s new UI (where users can access their personal and business documents via the same Dropbox app), then it could give reason for IT bosses to breathe a sigh of relief because a big part of their “Dropbox problem” (i.e., employees using Dropbox on the job despite it being against company rules) would finally be gone.

Workers would be able to use Dropbox out in the open. And the rebel-geeks who found workarounds for using Dropbox even where it was blocked could become its evangelists.

That’s how it might unfold in Camelot, anyways.

We tried to ask Ilya Fushman, who leads Dropbox for Business, if this was his vision. While he did reply to our email, all he shared with us was that he was extremely excited about the MobileSpan acquisition. He also suggested that we get the details from MobileSpan’s website.

What Does MobileSpan Bring to Dropbox?

There was one particular sentence that we found interesting in the announcement (and trust us, every word in the post was carefully selected, reviewed and reviewed again, by marketers, lawyers and probably Houston himself):

Yet we still have some ways to go before business content is freed from its desktop-focused roots and is made readily usable yet secure on modern mobile devices.”

Decoded, we suspect that Dropbox might be saying something like, “Hey CIO, maybe you’re right and we’re not as enterprise-worthy as you’d like us to be at the moment, but, until we’re there, we have this MobileSpan technology that will meet all of your requirements and your employees are going to love it because it works just like Dropbox on the front-end and it even has our name on it.”

And if the Engineering teams from MobileSpan and Dropbox can work together well enough and fast enough, then the next group of Dropbox for Business users who use the mobile app won’t even have to think about where their documents reside, be they in SharePoint, a file share or in the cloud.

We should clarify that this is what we believe could happen, no one from Dropbox or MobileSpan has told us that this is their exact plan.

There’s a Prize Inside

Though we don’t have a list of MobileSpan’s enterprise customers, we suspect that they employ as many people, or more, as Spotify, Dropbox’s most recently announced business win.

 

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