The Enterprise File Sync and Share (EFSS) Market is competitive, to say the least. Last year’s strong performer can become leader of the pack in as little as a year. EMC Syncplicity proved that when it went from a Positive (Vs Strong Positive) in Gartner’s Marketscope last year to a Leader in its EFSS Magic Quadrant this year.

Which “Challenger” will broaden its vision and build out its capabilities quickly enough to make it into the Leader’s Quadrant by 2015?

Let’s take a closer look at what Gartner’s EFSS Challengers (Dropbox, Google, IBM and Microsoft) have to offer and where Gartner said they fall short. If you haven’t read our coverage on Gartner’s overall report and the MQ Leaders, it’s here.

Dropbox’s Play May Open Doors

Everyone loves Dropbox. OK, maybe IT managers and compliance officers aren’t that psyched about it because they think it isn’t Enterprise-worthy. And we’re not referring to polish, UI or UX when we use that term; we’re talking, in Gartner’s words, about “content-aware data loss prevention, built-in DRM encryption, HIPAA and FISMA certifications”. They’re all missing.

And while Dropbox may indeed lack those kinds of things, Dropbox for Business may be able to provide them in the near term. Gartner said that the company has already added features like administrator views of activity, separation of personal and business data into different accounts and remote wiping of business data from users' devices and so on.

The analyst considers Dropbox for Business to be Enterprise worthy enough to qualify as “a viable offering for organizations that aim to enable modern collaboration in their workplaces, worrying less about IT control and data protection and concentrating, instead, on user satisfaction.”

Among Dropbox’s assets, according to Gartner, are ease-of-use, its large consumer base (meaning that it is the file-sharing solution of choice in the personal lives of most workers), the way it works with corporate workflows such as collaboration, content management, editing and so on…

Gartner points out that being a “cloud only” solution may be a detriment, but we suspect that it’s one that Dropbox may eliminate once it leverages the assets of MobileSpan, a recent acquisition. It also highlights the lack of a Windows phone client, which it can easily build, provided the demand is there.

Will Dropbox make it into the Leaders Quadrant next year? As long as it keeps its focus on the Enterprise, there’s a good chance.

Leave it to Google

Only Google could enter the  challenge without intention or an articulated plan. At the time Gartner authored its EFSS MQ report, Google Drive for Work had not yet been announced. This means that Gartner’s evaluation centers on Google Drive, a more general offering that ranges from being available as freemium for consumers to part of the Google Apps for Business suite that C-level execs make purchasing decisions on. It’s worth noting here, that neither Gartner, nor we, are comparing apples to apples here. That being said, Google Drive in its more generic sense makes an impressive mark without necessarily meaning to. (This has huge implications for Google Drive for Work, provided that Google doesn’t lose its focus.)

Gartner writes that Google Drive is a good option for companies who need to migrate e-mail and “and other collaboration tools to the Google Apps suite or prioritizing on cloud storage services.”

It’s almost needless to say that Google Drive’s most outstanding feature is the way it plays with other Google products such as Google Docs, Calendar, Mail and messaging etc. as well its data center expertise which few providers can match.

Google Drive’s limitations consist of functionalities that Google probably didn’t intend to build, such as Enterprise-grade security and controls, a Windows UI and so on…

We say that Enterprises who look at Google Drive should look at Google Drive for Work as well.

Will Google Drive challenge today’s EFSS Leaders? It could, largely because file storage on Google’s Cloud is practically free.

That being said, Google Drive for Work has a much better shot, provided Google doesn’t lose its Enterprise focus, which it has a habit of doing. (But, hey, when you have a self-driving car around…)

IBM’s EFSS: Good for IBM Customers

If you aren’t an IBM customer and don’t work (or don’t intend to work) with IBM Connections, you can skip this section because that’s who IBM is targeting with its EFSS solution. At least that’s our take on Gartner’s evaluation.

On the other hand, if you’re an IBM shop, this EFSS might give you all you ever wanted and fit like a glove. Gartner said that it can be used on-premises, public cloud, private cloud and hybrid deployments which work well with other products in IBM’s ecosystem and more.

What’s the downside? If you’re not an IBM customer, there are probably better choices.

Will this challenge existing EFSS Leaders? Probably not, they have a great number of non-IBM customers who need their services.

Microsoft May Win Hearts and Heads

If you’re an avid Microsoft user and most Enterprises are, Microsoft One Drive for Business might be the most comfortable and convenient way to sync and share, to collaborate and to store company files. The UI is intuitive; Gartner said it’s well integrated with Sharepoint and Office 365 and other Microsoft products.

The analyst said its shortcomings stem from being Windows-centric— that’s something that might eventually change considering  Satya Nadella’s vision of a Cloud-First, Mobile-First Microsoft—and the 2 GB file size limit which will, no doubt, change as well.

That being said, we’re not sure, that the EFSS winner’s circle is where Microsoft is headed, but it could end up there as a side effect of its overall direction. Gartner may not disagree; they say that Microsoft One Drive for Business is a product extension rather than a destination.

Which EFSS Challengers Will Be Leaders Next Year?

All of the Challengers in this part of the EFSS MQ fell short of being selected as leaders based on “Completeness of Vision.” Which EFSS challengers will be able to fill that gap without sacrificing “Ability to Execute” is the question.

Dropbox has an excellent chance provided that CEO Drew Houston gives Dropbox for Business boss, Ilya Fushman, the leeway and the budget he needs to make acquisitions and to recruit and retain the talent to continue to build out an Enterprise grade product.

Google wants Enterprises to do business on its Cloud and if it needs to meet EFSS standards to make that happen, it may very well build them. That, in and of itself, isn’t much of a vision.

IBM will likely stay in its place because as long as it retains its focus on Connections and other IBM products. Its “Completeness of Vision” on the Magic Quadrant’s horizontal access is unlikely to move much.

Microsoft has a good shot as well because its Enterprise users are familiar with and trust the product and because it’s likely to shed its Windows centricity so that it can compete in a Cloud-First, Mobile-First world.

What’s your take? We’re all ears.