We now have the full story of how Apple founder Steve Jobs vowed in 2011 to kill Dropbox, the so-simple-it’s-addictive cloud storage company.
Jobs failed, of course.
Meanwhile, the product that Jobs developed in order to punish Dropbox for not agreeing to be acquired by Apple — iCloud — is a confusing also-ran in the cloud storage wars.
Dropbox CEO Drew Houston retold the story of his meeting with Jobs to Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff yesterday, at the latter company’s big conference, according to IT Business:
“I kind of couldn’t believe it when the meeting was getting set up,” Houston recalls from the Jobs encounter. Typing the address for 1 Infinite Loop, the Apple headquarters, on his iPhone for directions, he realised the address was already pre-stored on the device.
Jobs struck Houston as a straight talker. He told him he returned to Apple because he was frustrated that a company that convinced customers to pay a total of $US7 billion a year to use their products could still lose $US1 billion. But he was also direct with Houston, telling him that if he couldn’t acquire his startup, was going to come after Dropbox. Six months after that meeting, Houston was watching a Jobs keynote and saw him make good on that promise.
“He was calling out by name and saying he wants to kill us with iCloud,” Houston said.
How did that work out?
Dropbox has since gathered 175 million users, because the app is so simple: It looks and works just like any other folder on your desktop, but it’s in the cloud, so no matter what device you’re using your files are all right there. No special tech skills needed.
iCloud, by contrast, doubtless has millions of Apple users — but only because Apple’s operating system goes to lengths to prompt users into using it. As a product, it’s confusing. You have to dig it out of the system preferences to manage it. Typical iCloud users often ask, How do I use this thing? Are my files backed up on it or not? And why isn’t there a simple folder letting me see them?
Business Insider previously noted some other details from this meeting, as recounted by Houston:
“He comes in, his assistant hands him a cup of tea, he cups it in both hands, sits down, rocks back and forth. And says ‘where do we begin?'”
“We didn’t get into specifics, but he floated the idea [of Dropbox joining Apple].”
“It was an interesting conversation because he said he liked our products. I can’t think of much higher praise than that.”
Steve Jobs made the pitch himself, telling Dropbox it was just a feature, not a product. Dropbox founder Drew Houston says he told Jobs he didn’t want to sell. He wanted to build a big company.
We originally reported that the Jobs-Houston approach was made back in 2011.