Microsoft and Dropbox are teaming up today to more closely integrate Dropbox into Office. The surprise partnership will benefit Dropbox users who use Office across desktop, mobile, and the web as Microsoft’s productivity suite will soon become the standard way to edit Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files stored on Dropbox storage. Office for iPad will benefit the most, with an update coming in the following weeks that will allow Dropbox users to link their account directly to the Word, Excel, and PowerPoint iPad apps.
Dropbox files and folders will appear directly in Office for iPad
"Access to Dropbox content popped as one of the very first [Office for iPad] requests that customers had," explains Kirk Koenigsbauer, head of Microsoft’s Office Engineering team. "They want access to where their content is. We’re doing it to make sure customers have a great experience." Although Microsoft has its own OneDrive cloud storage, Dropbox will appear alongside Microsoft’s own service in the Office for iPad apps, allowing users to natively browse, open, and edit Office documents stored on Dropbox from directly within the app.
Dropbox is also adding options to its own mobile apps to push its users over to Microsoft Office to edit documents. If you’re on a mobile device that doesn’t have Office installed then you’ll be prompted to download the apps to edit, and any changes will sync back directly to Dropbox seamlessly, just as you’d expect. Microsoft's Office for iPad and Android apps currently require an Office 365 subscription to edit documents. While Microsoft hasn't announced anything just yet, now would be a perfect time for the company to drop the price to free to make this a success. Microsoft is also adding the ability to share Dropbox files from within its Office apps using Dropbox's own sharing functionality.
"It’s really about creating a deep connection between Dropbox and Office."
"It’s really about creating a deep connection between Dropbox and Office," says Ilya Fushman, head of product for Dropbox and Dropbox for Business. "We think this is a huge win for our users. We think this will result in the best possible experience for people trying to get work done, and trying to get work done on the go." The move comes just months after Dropbox unveiled its "Project Harmony" work to bring collaborative features to Microsoft Office. "We’re continuing that experience," explains Fushman. "That experience is really about making it simple and easy to work on the desktop." Most of the changes that Dropbox is partnering up with Microsoft for are focused on web and mobile.
In the first half of 2015 Dropbox is planning to support Office Online directly from its web app. Editing for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents will be managed through Microsoft’s Office Web Apps (Office Online) by default, and the documents will be stored back to Dropbox. 35 billion Office documents are stored on Dropbox, so it’s no surprise both companies want to work more closely together.
While the partnership clearly benefits both parties and mutual customers, it’s just the latest in a series of moves from Microsoft under new CEO Satya Nadella. "More broadly this is an example, like the relationship we have with SalesForce and other companies, where we’re increasingly looking to provide a better customer experience all up," says Koenigsbauer. "That’s working with partners beyond Redmond, and that’s important to us."
"Both sides are dedicating people and budget to make this project happen."
Koenigsbauer refused to discuss the terms of the partnership, but did note that "both sides are dedicating people and budget to make this project happen." It’s hard not to see this as a big win for Microsoft and a clear strategic move to keep rivals like Google from offering similar deals. Microsoft is increasingly facing more and more competition to unsettle its Office dominance, and this move maintains the status quo and will help tempt consumers over to its Office 365 subscriptions. For Dropbox it’s a lot easier to partner with companies and build a platform rather than try and create a rival to Microsoft Office. Dropbox’s updated apps will be available across mobile platforms in the coming weeks alongside Microsoft’s own Office apps. Additionally, Dropbox has also committed to building a Windows Phone version of its app which will be available in the coming months.