Who cares about Dropbox, SkyDrive, etc.? We're moving to a world where traditional "files" don't matter. - Brian Madden - BrianMadden.com
Brian Madden Logo
Your independent source for desktop virtualization, consumerization, and enterprise mobility management.
Brian Madden's Blog

Past Articles

Who cares about Dropbox, SkyDrive, etc.? We're moving to a world where traditional "files" don't matter.

Written on Dec 17 2012
Filed under:
10,042 views, 8 comments


by Brian Madden

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?

 

 
 




Our Books


Comments

Dan Shappir wrote re: Who cares about Dropbox, SkyDrive, etc.? We're moving to a world where traditional "files" don't matter.
on Mon, Dec 17 2012 6:14 AM Link To This Comment

Brian,

I think the key point here isn't so much the "end of files", rather it's the fact that many apps/services today are intrinsically Cloud enabled. If the app/service itself saves its data in the Cloud, you don't need an external Dropbox style service to do it for you. Put another way: iTunes (iCloud), Google Docs (Google Drive), Office 326 (SkyDrive), etc. all have a "Dropbox" built-in. An interesting dilemma is how to share resources across multiple Cloud storage instances - the obvious answer is URLs, though a mechanism like Web Intents may also be required (en.wikipedia.org/.../Web_Intents).

It will be interesting to see how Dropbox et al strive to provide additional value in order to maintain relevancy. Perhaps by bundling capabilities for data creation and editing, like WatchDox have done by picking up InstallFree.

@DanShappir

Harry Labana wrote re: Who cares about Dropbox, SkyDrive, etc.? We're moving to a world where traditional "files" don't matter.
on Mon, Dec 17 2012 8:12 AM Link To This Comment

As the various data providers grow, I'd expect the most broadly used ones to evolve with APIs into a data platform play, so application developers can build services on top.

The more open they are to letting developers build on the top the greater I rate their chances vs. closed single use case solutions.

rahvintzu wrote re: Who cares about Dropbox, SkyDrive, etc.? We're moving to a world where traditional "files" don't matter.
on Mon, Dec 17 2012 3:55 PM Link To This Comment

Good article Brian.

While the data ingestion to some form or relational database or object based storage is interesting.

I think the more critical point is how do we:

- Mass export content at the end or during the SAAS life cycle.

- Utilise any published API to allow increased value for platform collaboration as mentioned by Harry.

Vendors would love to keep you on board and stop you jumping ship easily, stay on platform or sit and develop my own tools off vendor API for cost X.

The migration cost doesn't go away with non cloud solutions its just that extra level of cost/complexity that needs to be factored in.

mmccabe wrote re: Who cares about Dropbox, SkyDrive, etc.? We're moving to a world where traditional "files" don't matter.
on Tue, Dec 18 2012 10:28 AM Link To This Comment

I agree with the notion that innovation is required in the cloud collaboration and content space...Box which is focused on the Enterprise Market and has a great developer ecosystem using our API's.  See this article on our recently released V2 API.  Disclaimer - I joined Box 2 months ago after 6+ years at VMware to help build our Channel.

thenextweb.com/.../box-announces-v2-api-now-available-shares-2012-year-in-review

Pat Bruns wrote re: Who cares about Dropbox, SkyDrive, etc.? We're moving to a world where traditional "files" don't matter.
on Tue, Dec 18 2012 10:29 AM Link To This Comment

Brian,

It's still about the data.

Files are still the lingua franca.

If I want to take my stuff out of a cloud box and put it into a home box or another vendor box, files are still the form factor.

BrianMar wrote re: Who cares about Dropbox, SkyDrive, etc.? We're moving to a world where traditional "files" don't matter.
on Tue, Dec 18 2012 10:36 AM Link To This Comment

I think your title should have been "Where traditional file management doesn't matter"  The files are still there and need to be managed, they are just being managed a different way.  

Marek wrote re: Who cares about Dropbox, SkyDrive, etc.? We're moving to a world where traditional "files" don't matter.
on Mon, Dec 31 2012 9:37 PM Link To This Comment

Hi Harry. What on earth does this mean?

"As the various data providers grow, I'd expect the most broadly used ones to evolve with APIs into a data platform play, so application developers can build services on top.

The more open they are to letting developers build on the top the greater I rate their chances vs. closed single use case solutions"?

were you posting in a different thread?

(Note: You must be logged in to post a comment.)

If you log in and nothing happens, delete your cookies from BrianMadden.com and try again. Sorry about that, but we had to make a one-time change to the cookie path when we migrated web servers.