Microsoft and Dropbox Set Aside Rivalry to Team Up in Mobile

Microsoft and Dropbox, competitors in the market for digital file storage, are joining forces in a partnership that plays to each side’s strengths

The companies are connecting their mobile services so an iPhone user in a Dropbox account can edit Microsoft Office files with the tap of a button. Likewise, someone using an iPad to create a PowerPoint presentation in Office can save the file to Dropbox with a built in “save to Dropbox” function
Until now, Microsoft Office on the iPad and iPhone allowed users to save files only to Microsoft’s own digital file sharing services including the Dropbox-like OneDrive. The inability to save Office documents to rival store-sync-and-share services was a glaring hole in Office when, in March, Microsoft for the first time offered Office apps for the iPad. Similarly, Office documents saved in Dropbox have been difficult to edit
However, working with Office files in Dropbox comes with caveats. Notably, Dropbox users can create and edit Office documents only if they subscribe to Office 365, the Web-and-mobile version of Office. Consumer subscriptions for Office 365 start at $70 a year for access via one computer and one tablet
The collaboration between Dropbox and Microsoft is an alliance of rivals. Microsoft last spring published a blog post, titled “Thinking Outside the Box,” which took a jab at services like Dropbox and that company’s arch rival, Box. Microsoft in the blog post described competing file-sharing services, which it didn’t name, as “isolated, single solution” products
Microsoft said in an interview the new integration with Dropbox is another sign of how the company is working more closely with technology products that are popular with consumers and businesses–even if those services compete with Microsoft. The partnership also improves the appeal of Microsoft’s Office mobile apps for Apple AAPL -0.74% devices and Android smartphones. Those apps haven’t worked smoothly with ubiquitous mobile services such as Dropbox, which has nearly 300 million users
For Dropbox, which has shifted focus from a purely consumer service to one aimed also at business users, meshing with Microsoft Office gives it a crucial link with one of the most popular workplace tools. To hone its pitch to corporate-tech managers, Dropbox also has beefed up security and support within its apps. Earlier this year, it started offering tools to let users collaborate on Microsoft Office documents
Other file-storage companies including Box have integrated Microsoft Office with their digital file cabinets. However, those services have taken advantage of Microsoft’s open software specifications rather than formal collaboration with Microsoft, and the results haven’t been seamless, particularly on mobile devices
Dropbox and Microsoft said they also are working to integrate their services next year in Web versions of Office and Dropbox
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