Everyone's excited about all these cloud-based file syncing products like Dropbox, Skydrive, etc. But have you ever thought they'll become less and less useful as most new applications don't use "files" in the traditional sense?
As the world moves away from the Windows desktop, we'll also move away from the concept of files. Any remnants of anything like Dropbox in those days will purely be for legacy applications.
Think about it. For years IT was all about delivering the monolithic Windows Desktop. That desktop had programs, settings, and files. Even as the Internet and the cloud transformed businesses and data centers, end user computing was still defined by traditional Windows desktops. Sure, some applications moved to HTML or SaaS delivery models, but most were still Windows desktop applications. Those desktop applications were designed to store their data in files on local hard drives, thumb drives, CDs, and network storage.
But think about how that's evolved over the years. We tend to focus on how newer applications are available as a service, don't have local installs, use HTML5, and are available from app stores. We talk about how traditional Windows apps are dying. But have you ever thought that traditional files will also die with traditional desktop apps?
For example, I personally don't use a desktop-based office suite anymore. Instead I do everything with Google Docs. Where does Google Docs store its files? Does it even have files??? Sure, I can pull up a list of them in a browser or the Google Docs iOS app, but those are more like records in some huge cloud database as opposed to a hard drive full of .doc and .xls files.
And it's not just office productivity anymore. When I open Evernote, I see a list of notes I've written. Are those files? Are they on my hard drive? I have no idea? I just know that I see my notes wherever I log in.
I could go on and on. iTunes keeps track of all my songs, tv shows, and movies. Are those files? Sure, they're MP3s or M4Vs or whatever, but I don't ever see or manage them—I just sync my devices and download them into iTunes, and with iCloud and iTunes Match I just stream and download them as needed. No more backing up and schlepping huge media libraries anymore.
Email? Are those files? Those are just messages in my account or in my mail client.
So for new applications, the concept of files is sort of replaced with database records or something like that. And that led me to a big realization. If TechTarget (my employer) told me today that I couldn't use Dropbox anymore, I'm not sure that I would even care! In fact most of the stuff in Dropbox are older files from years ago. The only thing I really use Dropbox for now is for sharing videos with Justin (our video producer), a big change from when I flipped out when TechTarget [unsuccessfully and temporarily] blocked Dropbox a few years ago.
This whole situation reminds me of the relationship between server-based computing and Windows applications. When SBC came out, we thought of it as a short term Band-Aid to "web-ify" traditional Windows desktop applications? The same is true for these file sync products. They "cloud-ify" our old school files. But with each year that passes, they become less relevant. (Though if we're using SBC as a guide, these file sync tools will be around for decades.)
I'm not even 100% sure what the point of this is. It doesn't really affect us right now, but it's interesting to think that files are going away, and when they do the Dropboxes of the world (in their current form) will be less relevant.
So… agree? Disagree? Am I missing anything? Does this even matter?
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