It takes 13 months to understand a Clementine has been missed
Back in July 2015 Dropbox acquired Clementine, what was positioned as an enterprise communications service company.
Clementine was a young company, less than a year in service and based on TechCrunch its service was discontinued following acquisition so it was more of a technology acquisition than anything else.
I’m not clear on what was Dropbox’s intent to do with the technology but since we don’t see this launched by Dropbox more than a year following acquisition it doesn’t look as if it was a successful acquisition.
Although it looks like the Dropbox WebRTC honeymoon wasn’t a successful one and that Dropbox had a disappointing experience with this WebRTC based company, looking at the market Dropbox is operating in, it must take WebRTC and unified communications seriously.
Dropbox was a pioneer in cloud file storage, synchronization and sharing. While it does show aspirations to become a true collaboration player it still lacks some basic capabilities.
Dropbox is competing with the major collaboration and unified communications companies such as Microsoft and Google that offer, on top of all their other productivity tools, a similar file storage/sharing capability as well as with Slack that provides this capability through integrations.
Dropbox has a nice integration with Microsoft’s Office 365 but since Microsoft has its own “Dropbox” it is risky to count on that integration for the long run.
Given competition, Dropbox is in a risky position because when IT needs to decide on a platform, it can get the full collaboration and unified communications suite including the storage part as well as all the file collaboration, voice, video and messaging capabilities, all from one vendor instead of going to Dropbox for one part and filling the gaps through other vendors.
The risk is clear; Dropbox may lose its Business market which is its main source of revenue.
With making Dropbox Paper now an open Beta Dropbox is doing the expected step for mitigating the risk and closing a significant gap on the document collaboration side of things. But there are other gaps to be closed.
Dropbox did go through small acquisitions of technologies for messaging and sharing (Droptalk, Zulip, Mailbox and others) but it needs to consolidate all these technologies into a coherent collaboration and unified communications service that competes well with Google and Microsoft.
Hosted collaboration and unified communications is a growing market. Companies are moving their communications to the cloud and adding collaboration, file storage and sharing as a way to increase productivity and support distributed teams.
Having the full stack of capabilities is important required in order to become a significant player in this market. It takes a rather large company to have all these capabilities and be able to win in the enterprise market.
Dropbox is well positioned to become a dominant player in this market along with Microsoft and Google.
Slack will not be able to leave the important collaboration and unified communications capabilities for external integrations; it will continue its work on having these capabilities in-house.
Since Dropbox has taken care of the file collaboration part, the major gap it has now is in the unified communications part (voice, video and messaging). WebRTC is what can help Dropbox close this gap and become its growth engine in the enterprise space.
This gap can be closed through internal development of these capabilities, small acquisitions of unified communications companies and technologies or through a large scale M&A with one of the leaders in unified communications that is lacking what Dropbox has to offer, the Broadsofts and Vonages of the world.