man at work at an office desk
Dropbox just released two new tools to help power the digital workplace. PHOTO: Tamarcus Brown

Dropbox is doubling down on its bet on the digital workplace with two new features designed especially for businesses rather than consumers. 

At a press event in San Francisco yesterday, Dropbox co-founder and CEO Drew Houston positioned the new tools — Smart Sync, which lets users see documents in the Dropbox cloud without the need to download them, and Paper, a note-taking app designed for team collaboration — as keys to new ways of working.

He suggested the products not only represent a new phase in Dropbox's evolution to a business-focused platform but a leap ahead for companies that want to store documents on physical servers they don’t need to maintain.

The Dropbox Dilemma

Founded by Houston and Arash Ferdowsi — both MIT engineers — in 2007, Dropbox is a cross-platform cloud storage solution. In the past few years the company has shifted away from its roots as a free file storage service used largely by individuals with products intended to win the support of the corporate community. 

Sales are up, Dropbox has been cash-flow positive about a year and the company is gaining a more mature reputation, largely because of growing sales of Dropbox Business.

At the event yesterday, Houston said Dropbox has passed $1 billion in annual revenue run rate — revenue over a short time period extrapolated over a full year. Dropbox, he said, reached this milestone faster than any other Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) company including Salesforce, Workday, ServiceNow and athenahealth.

Dropbox is working hard to justify the frothy $10 billion valuation it gained with its last round of venture funding in 2014, especially in advance of an anticipated initial public offering (IPO) this year. 

But Houston could have a secondary motive: he may be emphasizing his company's financial stability to calm the nerves of enterprise IT managers who want assurance they can depend on the cloud-based productivity and collaboration tools they select for the long haul.

By 2018, Gartner predicts, 70 percent of today's enterprise file sync and share (EFSS) destination vendors will be out of business. To survive, Dropbox needs a be seen as a direct competitor to larger, better endowed companies offering competitive products.

More About Smart Sync, Paper

Dropbox used the media event yesterday to promote its new features with both enthusiasm and a touch hyperbole. They'll help power the digital workplace in a way nothing else in the market can, Dropbox product managers Genevieve Sheehan and Kavitha Radhakrishnan told CMSWire.

Smart Sync "will fundamentally change the way people find, access and collaborate with large amounts of data," Sheehan continued. Smart Sync lets users can see all their files and folders right from their desktop, regardless of whether those files are stored in the cloud or synced locally, without the need to access to a web browser. Whenever users need to access files stored in the cloud, they can download them with a double click.

Smart Sync is now available to only select Dropbox for Business customers during a trial period.

Manage storage space better with Dropbox Smart Sync
Dropbox said Smart Sync helps users manage storage space better.

Dropbox is marketing Paper as "a flexible workspace that brings people and ideas together." In simple terms, think as it as a minimal document editor and writing tool positioned to complete with options such as Google Docs.

Individuals and teams can use Paper as a digital surface that can act as a document, a spreadsheet, a to do list, a presentation or a Pinterest like page. Users can embed video previews from sites like YouTube or Vimeo, or links to documents from Dropbox, Google Drive or other sites, just by pasting a link. Advanced users can also use keyboard shortcuts and markdown support "to get things done quickly," Dropbox noted.

After more than a year in beta, Dropbox Paper is generally available in 21 languages.