Nobody will win the storage war

Dropbox and Box have just been crushing it in the online storage space. Those before them had failed, largely because they focused on backups, rather than the true benefit of the internet, collaboration. As a founder who is working on connecting web applications to cloud storage, I’m often asked who is going to win this new salvo. Will Dropbox leverage the consumerization of IT to sneak into big business, Box’s current stronghold? Will Google or Microsoft be able to buy market share?

The truth: No one will win. Let’s be fair; they will still be massively successful. However, the market will remain fragmented.

Yes, there are strong network effects. Due to sharing, I benefit if my friends use the same brand of cloud hard drive.

However, they will fail to corner the market because of two important forces:

1. Application Integration

There are a whole slew of storage providers who are deeply integrated with one use case. Facebook has become my defacto online photo hard drive, while friends with DSLRs use Picasa or Flickr for this purpose. I never realized this until I tripped my limit, but I’ve passively collected a lot of family photos and school reports in Gmail. Evernote stores memories. Google Docs and Office Live have my documents. Even Youtube or Vimeo keeps a cache of my favorite cat videos.

While these are not commonly thought of as online storage, part of their functionality is just that and they will continue to do well. The generalized Dropbox and Box will never be able to compete with such tight coupling of application and storage.

2. Hardware Integration

There are some deep hardware integrations as well. iCloud, executed well, could be a great example of how hardware and cloud storage plays well by syncing device settings and files. Tivo is an even better example of hardware that couples well with storage (though not yet cloud connected)

This is why no storage provider can win. Integrations of storage plus photos, emails, notes, documents, or hardware will hold their own against general storage providers because, as Steve Jobs has proven, tight integration between components results in better user experience.

Since the storage market is going to remain segmented, users are going to have their files scattered across many platforms; therefore, the interoperability between these platforms matters.

That’s what we believe at; we’re building the pipes to and from these storage providers, helping developers build web applications that work regardless of where their users store their files.

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