March 09, 2013

Competing by creating value

I started using Dropbox three years ago.  I really liked Dropbox because they were the only cloud storage service to support Linux.  They have a very good web interface; their UI is pretty good; their service is very reliable; their security is pretty good too, in my view.

Google launched Drive last year.  Their web UI is much inferior to Dropbox’s.  They don’t support Linux.  It’s uncertain if they’ll ever support Linux; even if they did, they may soon decide to withdraw.  Despite all this, I will be seriously considering a switch to Drive if/when there is a Linux client for it.

Dropbox has been in the business since 2008.  They have done an excellent job of building a reliable cloud storage service that people want to use.  With their APIs, they have built an ecosystem around their service with noticeable success.  But now Google comes along trying to build a much richer ecosystem of web apps.  If Dropbox is a bridge for aspiring apps to connect to the future, Drive wants to be a building block of that future.

One way to think about Drive is as a personalised office suite with apps from different vendors.  You can use LucidChart for creating diagrams; UJAM for creating music; Google Docs for creating documents — all from within drive.google.com!  All these apps store the data in your Google Drive so your data is always with you on all your devices.  It’s clearly a better model than Dropbox’s; and more ambitious and risky at the same time.  If Drive’s aspirations work out well, Dropbox and other competitors will have a tough time catching up.
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This is something I like to learn from Google.  They know how to compete with players who are already dominant in a field.  When Google launched Chrome, everyone said “we don’t need another browser”.  Chrome today has captured an enormous share of the market.  Chrome did not try to do things that people loved about Firefox or Safari or Opera.  Instead, Chrome has been focusing on things that are useful and unique.  (Syncing profile data, supporting bundled apps, etc. are some examples that come to mind.)

Maybe winning is a byproduct of focusing on your strengths, bringing something new and useful to the table, and continuously improving your product.

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