Cloud Off? Will Mobile Users Suffer a Drop off in UX After Dropbox Buys CloudOn?


By David Abbou - Feb-19-2015

All Microsoft mobile app jokes aside, it’s no secret few cloud sync and share vendors have been able to deliver on high quality, native mobile functionality for enterprise office tools. CloudOn was a rare exception to this rule, and now they have been scooped up by cloud storage provider Dropbox, who has been on a torrid shopping spree of late.

Up until now CloudOn has been a tremendously successful startup, amassing over 9 million users since it entered the market in 2012. At the time, there was no offering available to consumers which coupled both file storage and collaboration abilities with mobile-first content creation apps. Cloudon’s team of founders stepped in, and in the eyes of many were the first to provide office apps for enterprise that were driven by the needs of mobile users. Where others in the space tried with only limited success to modify their desktop iterations for mobile interfaces, CloudOn simply “got it right”. Microsoft’s OneDrive, Google’s Drive and Box have since invested a lot of effort to fulfill this need.

But right up until its founders agreed to the as yet undisclosed offer they couldn’t refuse, CloudOn was seen by many as a shining light, a beacon for user experience excellence. Their detailed focus on ’gesture-first’ design allowed them to stand out from the competition, and for users to tap, type, pinch and grab their way to document creation. Their ability to integrate with all of the aforementioned cloud storage services above also gave them a distinct leg up.

But as of March 15, CloudOn’s service will be shut down for good, and it remains to be seen what the net effect will look like for consumers. Without a shadow of a doubt, the market needs more business-class apps with the fresh, mobile-first UX design that helped CloudOn users to create and share over 90 million documents to date.

There are many questions that have been left unanswered. How does Microsoft’s partnership with Dropbox figure into the bigger picture? Are the unique elements CloudOn brought to the table going to be resurrected on a mobile device near you, only this time in the form of a Dropbox or Microsoft offering? The recent launch of Harmony addresses desktop apps, but in an increasingly mobile workplace, a rather large part of the enterprise puzzle is about to go missing. Or did Dropbox simply buy out CloudOn and absorb its brain trust to eliminate a worthy competitor?

One fact is certain: these moves reflect Dropbox’s determination to make significant inroads into the enterprise market.

Meanwhile, enterprise mobility users deserve top-class productivity tools that can be easily shared and collaborated on the cloud. Here’s hoping that as Dropbox looks to integrate enterprise mobile productivity apps with Microsoft’s current suite, consumers will gain the intuitive user experience that quickly became CloudOn’s signature quality.