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Dropbox acquires MobileSpan and Droptalk: It’s going to be a busy year

Dropbox continues its acquisition spree, this week pulling in MobileSpan, a provider of mobile apps for secure editing of Office documents behind corporate firewalls. This is clearly in line with Dropbox’s direction with Dropbox for Business.

The founders of MobileSpan state on the company site that they will cease development on the current  product and devote their time and energy to similar capabilities integrated into Dropbox for Business, but existing customers can use the MobileSpan products through the end of the year.

Note that this comes on the heels of an earlier acquisition that I hadn’t gotten around to talking about here, although I wrote this in an upcoming report on contextual collaboration:

Droptalk is a company with the tagline ‘Drop content into conversations’. The team had created an early beta of a Chrome plugin for a chat-based conversation tool that allowed users to share webpage, images, and files in the chat stream. Dropbox acquired the company on 6 June, and I bet this is not an acquihire: I bet they will integrate this with Dropbox as soon as possible.

Here’s a screenshot from a video they posted.

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Note that Dropbox is acquiring these companies will still in beta, and are steamrolling toward an expanding — and compelling — product vision.

At this point, I think that Dropbox is headed toward an explosion of functionality on two fronts:

  1. They are acquiring or building the infrastructure that enterprise IT wants to see in a corporate file sync-and-share platform, decreasing the concerns leveled at what started out as a personal (‘consumer’) product. New emphasis on provisioning, administration, and user management, and the clever two-headed client built into Dropbox for business demonstrate that (see Dropbox for Business is only the start: next, work management and office apps).
  2. Acquiring Droptalk and Zulip (see Dropbox acquires Zulip, readies two-headed client), which indicates the direction they are headed in the support of people working together, rather than just syncing files. It seems likely that Dropbox will be rolling out what I am calling a contextual conversation solution: a chat-oriented platform similar in spirit to Droptalk plugin, in which files, links, photos, and other information objects are easily shared.

The thrust of this entree into contextual conversation — which is much more than chat, but you’ll have to wait for the report for a deeper explanation — will be a repositioning of Dropbox. They will quickly become a competitor of enterprise social networks and other work management solutions, like Yammer, IBM Connections, and Jive, as well as the growing crowd of work-oriented chat solutions, like Hipchat, Slack, Gitter, Fleep, and Flowdock.

There is also Apple to contend with, since the iOS 8/Yosemite generation of iMessage and iCloud Drive may line up pretty well against Dropbox, at least on the personal use side.

It’s going to be a busy, busy year for Dropbox.