Dropbox’s Acquisitions Fit Their Apple Strategy

Dropbox made another set of acquisitions today, picking up Loom and Hackpad. Loom is similar to Carousel, Dropbox’s new photo app, while Hackpad is a collaborative document tool. From Recode:

In addition to a massive hiring spurt and fundraising stockpile, Dropbox has been quietly acquiring startups that make productivity and media apps so their teams can work on similar products internally.

In just the last three months, Dropbox’s acquisitions have included photo app Loom, collaborative document tool Hackpad, corporate chat tool Zulip and social e-book reader Readmill. The first two were undisclosed until now; the latter two had previously leaked out.

As I wrote extensively in The Heart of Dropbox, I think Dropbox needs to focus more clearly on either business or consumer (and I now think they should choose consumer). I do think, though, that I could have done a better job in that article differentiating between enterprise type businesses versus small and medium-sized businesses; the latter are much more realistic targets for “the consumerization of IT (which I think is overstated, particularly in the case of enterprises).

More broadly, though, what Dropbox is doing is actually very much in the Apple model. Apple sells a quote-unquote “commodity” product that they differentiate with software; this differentiation lets them charge a premium.

Similarly, Dropbox is selling a commodity product: cloud storage. Apps like Carousel and these that they have acquired are software meant to differentiate that commodity, allowing Dropbox to charge a premium.

The strategy makes sense; the larger question is the degree to which consumers value non-tangible goods period.