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Dropbox and Google Drive Face an Uphill Battle

The clouds are gathering for what looks to be quite the storm on the latest front to move through the tech world, with major titans in Microsoft, Apple, Google, Dropbox and now Amazon squaring off to win your usage and dollars in the cloud storage wars. Dropbox was the first major player to strike first with dead simple use, great integration with user's desktops and a simple, yet powerful web interface. The recent additions to their phone app (at least for Android) that adds features like automatic photo backup are an added bonus to great usability.

Apple's iCloud has really put the squeeze on Dropbox for Mac users however. With tight integration with iOS devices as well as the desktop and even Windows users to an extent, iCloud is positioning itself as the go to option for consumers with iDevices. Amazon has just recently worked to expand their cloud storage options to the desktop with an actual client as opposed to web based interfaces. Amazon's services live and die with the popularity of the Kindle platform, with recent news that the Kindle Fire isn't selling as well as it used to, Amazon still faces a long battle to capture the cloud for consumers.

Google has unveiled their Drive for cloud storage that essentially replaces Google Docs but keeps the docs functionality, much like Microsoft's SkyDrive. Google seems to have played the initial launch of their services well, but much like Android, I question it's staying power. As more consumers are introduced to Apple's iCloud and the tight integration with iOS and soon Mountain Lion, why would an Apple consumer use Google's services for cloud storage when Apple builds a solution into their devices?

Which brings me to Microsoft. Microsoft has, until recently, been seen as an "oh, by the way, we do cloud storage too," sort of offering. While SkyDrive used to offer more storage out of the gate than the other big companies, their recent reduction to a starting 7GB (Still larger than all the other companies I've listed) shows that Microsoft is expecting usage of their service to skyrocket with the introduction of Windows 8. The new Windows client that ties SkyDrive into Windows' Explorer brings the cloud services in line with all the other major players, with a tightly integrated Windows Phone and iOS app, Microsoft is clearly taking the entire venture very seriously.

Notice I didn't mention an official Android app. I doubt there will ever be one from Microsoft, their own website links to third party apps that make use of the SkyDrive APIs. This is where Dropbox, Google and Amazon will face their largest challenge. Microsoft is treating themselves and Apple as first class citizens, but shunning the web based solutions being pushed by web based companies. This is why Google will face stiff competition in this space. They may be off to a strong start, but I've already uninstalled the Google Drive client for Windows, I don't use it and all it provided to me was web shortcuts to my Google Docs, docs I couldn't view or edit if my device was offline. The value of having a cloud solution readily integrated into the devices you own will very quickly become apparent to those who buy new Macs, iPads, iPhones, Windows 8 Computers and Windows Phones this fall. So why will people want to set up an account with another company and download their client to their device that already has the same functionality baked in?

Consumers may at first, and I don't think this fall will mark the end of Dropbox. It will be a slow gradual decline. I've already noticed it myself. I use my Dropbox less when it comes to my computers, the main purpose it serves right now is auto-uploading the photos I take on my phone so I can access them on my computer and add them to my Skydrive. Much like when Gmail first arrived and began offering tons of storage space, and others sprung up to copy the offer, people started getting email addresses wherever they could, right now people are grabbing up Gigabytes wherever they can get them online, but the mad dash for cloud storage will only last so long, and when the dust settles, much like it did with email, the remaining ones will be the ones who offer the best service.

Right now Microsoft and Apple are in position to offer the best service to their respective consumer base. Tight integration into their operating systems, coupled with compelling devices that make use of a single account to manage a customer's digital life will mean that because consumers haven't embraced the web-only philosophy Google is pushing gives Apple and Microsoft the edge. The question is, can both tech titans make the most of the edge they have or will Google, Amazon or Dropbox be able to convince consumers that their add-ons are worth the trouble of downloading for a better feature set. My money is on Apple and Microsoft.

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