Acquisition-hungry Dropbox is building a mobile-first, cloud-first platform

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By tech2 News Staff /  17 Jun 2014 , 18:03

One would expect the likes of Facebook, Google, Apple and Yahoo to be the real movers and shakers when it comes to acquisitions in the tech industry. But in this mobile-first world, big name apps have become as much of a force to reckon with.

The likes of Dropbox are now serious contenders for picking up new tech or startups. Dropbox has, in fact, been on something of an acquisition spree and most recently purchased Parastructure, a big data startup, that could galvanise its efforts to become a complete platform rather than a singular cloud storage app or service. It’s making its move to become a major mobile-first, cloud-first platform.

Let’s take a quick look at some of its notable acquisitions and what it means for the company.

Parastructure
Today, Dropbox acquired Parastructure, a startup that ‘builds data-analysis software on top of open source infrastructure’. News has it that the deal is likely to be sealed at an amount between $10 million up to $50 million. Dropbox doesn’t intend to employ the technology right away and the technology is more likely to be incorporated for Dropbox employees who want to get a picture of what’s going on with its various services. Parastructure is likely to be the lynchpin for the various Dropbox services, by tying together data in the back-end.

Droptalk
Earlier this month, Dropbox announced the acquisition of Droptalk, a startup that runs an IM service designed to allow users to share links privately via Chrome extensions. The tool is all set to be an app on both iOS and Android platforms. Droptalk does have an interesting appeal with the instant messaging-like interface, along with the cloud storage-component. Dropbox is known to be one of the largest companies in the cloud computing sphere. By adding a chat element would definitely give it an added boost in the workplace, but could have implications even in the consumer space, where messaging apps are dime a dozen. A secure messaging tool, with chats available on all platforms and devices, sounds appealing, and could be the company’s answer to WhatsApp or even something like iMessage and Google Hangouts.

Dropbox has bought the iOS-only bubbli app for photos.  Screenshot of the bubbli app
Dropbox has bought the iOS-only bubbli app for photos.

Bubbli
Dropbox is surely building up capabilities in the photo sharing realm.  Soon after releasing new cloud-based photo service called Carousel, the company acquired Bubbli, an iOS app that lets you take 3D panoramas.  The app allows users to create ‘bubbles’, which are essentially 360 photospheres with sound and allows users to share them with other users even those who don’t have the app. On the face of it, it’s just another app, but Bubbli’s stitching algorithm can be used in the back-end with Carousel to produce 3D photos from a user’s album.

Loom 
A lot of Dropbox acquisitions have been in keeping with Carousel. In April, Dropbox acquired Loom a cloud-based photo storage service very similar to Dropbox’s native feature for auto-backup. It was shut down as an app and has features such as gesture-based album creation function, which will be integrated to the main Dropbox app. Many of its features have also been moved to Carousel, which allows users to carry their photos to any device as long as the app is supported.

Hackpad
Along with the photo-sharing startup Loom, Dropbox had also acquired document-sharing firm HackpadHackpad is similar to Basecamp or Slack. Working on a major project and need everyone to be on the same page? Use Hackpad to sync notes and files, assign tasks, and so on between designated devices. Interestingly, it also has an element of crowdsourcing which is said to be the key motivation behind the acquisition.  The app version of the service is for iOS only and continues to function, but the bigger collaboration element could very well be put to use for productivity tools within Dropbox, such as in document editing or spreadsheets.

Hackpad app
Hackpad app

Zulip
Dropbox acquired the messaging service Zulip in March, even before it was open to public use. It was in private beta at the time of the acquisition, but had already developed a suite of applications for Mac, Windows, Linux, iPhone and Android, allowing users to share both public and private messages with their co-workers. Once again, this is Dropbox’s base for collaboration at the work place, one of its key focus areas in recent times.

Readmill
In March, Dropbox acquired Readmill, the e-reading service that was quite popular for its support of ebooks from Nook or Kobo. The highlight feature, which is said to be the reason behind the acquisition, is the ability for users to leave bookmarks and tags for others to see within documents. This also could be built into the collaborative work tool that Dropbox has been hinting at with its acquisitions.

Mailbox
Mail is a crucial component of any ecosystem and last year Dropbox ventured out of its cloud niche to acquire Mailbox.  The app is available on Android and iOS. The functionality Dropbox builds into Mailbox with its established cloud service can range from cloud-based email storage to large-size attachments, such as ones seen on services like WeTransfer or YouSendIt.

In addition, Dropbox has made a slew of acquisitions including a mobile advertising platform TapEngage, a human resources startup Foundry Hiring and an online marketplace platform called Sold.

Overall, its buying spree points towards a move to make communication and collaboration at the work place simpler, and more cloud reliant. There’s a heavy focus on mobile, as a company born in the mobile age, is wont to do, but it’s also not letting go of its cloud antecedents. Those two aspects have proven to be Dropbox’s strength and it’s hoping to them a crucial part of our everyday work and interaction.


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