By Barry Levine / Mobile Tech Today. Updated March 18, 2014.
Online storage service Dropbox is expanding its capabilities for business. While no formal acquisition announcement was made, published reports today indicate the company has acquired Zulip, a workplace chat app still in the beta test phase.
Zulip has applications for Mac, Windows, Linux, Android and iOS devices. The app allows topic-related messages to be seen in "streams" and "sub-streams," in addition to private messaging. There's also file uploading via drag-and-drop, private messaging for groups, an API, and integrations with selected services, such as software development site Github.
Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Zulip was started by a team of former Oracle employees, led by CEO Jeff Arnold. Investors in the startup include Paul English, co-founder of travel site Kayak. The acquisition, which had been rumored, has now been confirmed by an e-mail from Zulip to participants in its private beta. The e-mail asked its users to keep the acquisition secret, and said that business at Zulip will continue "as usual" for the time being, according to reports.
Dropbox enables cloud-based file sharing, syncing between devices, and storage. While it is more consumer-oriented that competitor Box, it has been steadily developing its Dropbox for Business unit.
Ross Rubin, principal analyst for industry research firm Reticle Research, noted that Dropbox has also expanded its file sharing and storage service to include "file previews and photos to entice users to upload photos directly from their cameras."
He told us that "messaging and collaboration are a natural outgrowth of storage," especially for a "transactional storage service" like Dropbox that emphasizes sharing as opposed to dead file storage like Carbonite.
Online storage is becoming a commodity, not only as standalone services but as extensions of many major ecosystems, including Apple's, Microsoft's and Google's. Rubin pointed out that in this kind of environment, Dropbox, Box and other third-party services "need to find a way to stand out."
Google, for instance, recently announced a major reduction in its cloud storage prices, from $4.99 per user monthly for 100 GB storage to $1.99, and from $49.99 to $9.99 monthly for 1 terabyte. By comparison, Dropbox is $9.99 monthly for 100 GB, Box is $5 and Microsoft's Windows Azure is $6.80.
In January, Dropbox suffered a service outage that lasted for several days. The general perception among online storage watchers was that the company lost customers who went to alternative vendors during that time. The company said that the outage occurred as it was upgrading the OS on several servers, and it took some time to retrieve backups.
Box is similarly expanding its repertoire. On Monday, Box announced that Aneesh Chopra, the first federal government chief technology officer, has signed on as an advisor to that company's initiative for medical information storage. Box has also hired Glen Tullman, ex-CEO of Allscripts, one of the companies that provides electronic health records.
That hire was in line with the company's business strategy. About a year ago, Box announced it was launching a major effort to become the cloud-based solution for healthcare providers.