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Dropbox CEO: Steve Jobs wanted to buy us, tried to kill us

updated 10:38 am EST, Thu November 21, 2013

Dropbox chief says iCloud was direct shot at Dropbox

Dropbox founder and CEO Drew Houston says that late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs settled on killing off the popular file syncing system when Houston declined Jobs' offer of an acquisition. IT Business reported this week on Houston's remarks, which came in the course of a discussion on stage at Dreamforce, the annual Salesforce.com conference in San Francisco. Houston says that the unveiling of iCloud was a direct shot at Dropbox, one he says the company has proudly survived.

"I kind of couldn't believe it when the meeting was getting set up," Houston recalled on stage. The Dropbox CEO did not specify how much Jobs offered to purchase Dropbox, but he did detail an impression of Jobs as a straight talker, and very much to the point.

Jobs recounted the reasons he returned to Apple, telling Houston that he had been frustrated that a company could convince customers to pay $7 billion a year for Apple products and still lose $1 billion. With regard to Dropbox, Houston said that Jobs was direct, saying at first that he wanted to buy the service, but telling him that if the acquisition talks failed, Apple would be coming after them with a competitor.

Six months after the meeting, Apple rolled out iCloud, which would eventually replace its underperforming MobileMe platform. Houston was watching Jobs' keynote when the new service was unveiled.

"He was calling out by name and saying he wants to kill us with iCloud," said the Dropbox chief.

Apple's cloud solution has gone on to see considerable use, due to its inclusion in Apple's bestselling iOS devices, as well as its being built in to OS X. Dropbox, though, has gone on to surpass the 200 million user mark, and without being tied to any other indispensable products. The company has continually added features for its users, and it is said to be working to push beyond simple storage and syncing into other arenas in the near future.



By Electronista Staff
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Comments

  1. Bittyson

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 09-21-11

    Given the fact that iCloud doesn't do what Dropbox does, like at all, makes the statement that iCloud was a shot at Dropbox fairly ridiculous.

  1. sibeale1

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 02-23-06

    Agree, if he was looking for a nemesis, he should have pointed to Google Drive.

  1. aardman

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 11-18-09

    I remember Steve expressed admiration for Drew Houston when his overture got turned down. He respected Houston's desire to build a company long term rather than just take the money and run.

    As to whether Apple tried to kill Dropbox, Houston shouldn't take it personally. I don't think he was being targeted (perhaps the reporter or editors were the ones who made it sound as if he was). Apple needed a cloud solution obviously --that's why they approached Dropbox. And since they got turned down, what are they supposed to do, just drop the cloud component of their long term strategy? Silly article.

  1. mojkarma

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 10-13-11

    "Given the fact that iCloud doesn't do what Dropbox does, like at all, makes the statement that iCloud was a shot at Dropbox fairly ridiculous."

    Have you ever thought about that Apple is going to expand the functions of iCloud in the future to do maybe the same as dropbox does? Have thought about that Apple maybe cannot offer the same functionality in a short time period? Sorry, but your argument is actually more ridiculous. Apple had to start from scratch instead of using existing technology. That's maybe why iCloud turned out not to be an exact copy of dropbox.

  1. fahlman

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 06-27-03

    @mojkarma Apple offered the same functionality as Dropbox with iDisk eight years before Dropbox was released. They could do it again tomorrow if they wanted to.

  1. Sebastien

    Registered User

    Joined: 04-29-00

    The problem with iCloud, and what makes it useless beyond just accessing your files between devices, is that it only allows access to, well, *your* files. There's no real sharing or multi-user (or even multi-app) access possible at all with iCloud. iCloud is far from being any threat to Dropbox or Box.

  1. Flying Meat

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: 01-25-07

    @mojkarma. You argue against an observation of what is, with conjecture about what might happen later? That would work fine if there were an actual request for guesses about the future.
    There is no question that Apple ridiculously missed the mark if their intent really was to kill DropBox.

  1. Inkling

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: 07-25-06

    I'm skeptical about the Dropbox CEO's comment. If Steve Jobs had wanted to kill Dropbox, he'd have created a Dropbox-like product. He didn't. In some ways, iCloud is better. In some ways, Dropbox is better. I use both and see little reason to become exclusive.

  1. Spheric Harlot

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 11-07-99

    A lot of apps use Dropbox the way they should be using iCloud sync, and it annoys me.

    I have about thirty project and work folders in my Dropbox, and I dislike the additional clutter.

  1. hayesk

    Professional Poster

    Joined: 09-17-99

    I don't believe Apple's intent was to kill DropBox. Apple can not kill cross platform services because they don't have the reputation and credibility with non-Apple users. Find the average Windows/Android user and ask them if they'd use a service provided by Apple or DropBox.

  1. coffeetime

    Mac Enthusiast

    Joined: 11-15-06

    iCloud and Dropbox are totally two different monsters. They function differently despite they are cloud base storages. Houston is clueless. Dropbox has this brilliant syncing concept while iDisk is just a plain old passive remote storage (and dawn slow). What Steve Jobs saying is I fired my "not so creative" guy and want to hire "the brilliant" you. That's all. Nothing to loose if Houston rejected it. And also why even bother making Apple's own Dropbox when there are so many out there. iCloud serves its purpose.

  1. chas_m

    MacNN Staff

    Joined: 08-04-01

    All Apple would have to do is turn on free total photo photo and video syncing, and Dropbox would fall fast. It (Dropbox) has already been LONG surpassed by other competitors that do the same thing but offer WAY more space.

    The company is currently, IMHO, coasting on the strength of its brand name and the fact that they're not evil like Google. That's pretty much it.

    I moved to Copy.com for public sharing quite a while ago, and its only flaw is that it's a teensy bit (and I mean teensy bit) less slick in its software. But I have 20GB of no-cost space versus 2GB from Dropbox. Dropbox is a brand, and don't get me wrong -- they're still one of the best in this business in terms of ease of use -- but 2GB of free space is a bit of a joke anymore. Flickr offers 1TB (that's 1,000GB, not a typo) in free photo storage, Copy offers 15 or 20GB (depending on whether you were referred or not), Mega.com offers 50GB free.

    Apple would have to do *very* little to become a Dropbox competitor. It's probably more a matter of scale and timing than lack of desire.

  1. smacker

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 04-24-03

    "He was calling out by name and saying he wants to kill us with iCloud," said the Dropbox chief.

    I very much doubt that. Link to that keynote please? I've watched every keynote Jobs ever did and that's just not the way he phrases things. When he took a shot at a competitor it was almost always worded indirectly, hinted at. I never heard him say something like "We have a new service out and we are going to kill [insert competitor] with it". That's just not the way he was speaking at keynotes.

  1. Grendelmon

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: 12-26-07

    Originally Posted by smackerView Post

    "He was calling out by name and saying he wants to kill us with iCloud," said the Dropbox chief.

    I very much doubt that. Link to that keynote please? I've watched every keynote Jobs ever did and that's just not the way he phrases things. When he took a shot at a competitor it was almost always worded indirectly, hinted at. I never heard him say something like "We have a new service out and we are going to kill [insert competitor] with it". That's just not the way he was speaking at keynotes.



    I think he meant Jobs was saying it subtly , not literally.

  1. Flying Meat

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: 01-25-07

    I don't know. The quote seems pretty specific. "He hinted about the competitors to iCloud, and then he said that he wanted to murder each and every one of us." Maybe that's what he meant? Regardless. It's what he said that matters. Speculating about what he meant is pointless. If he had prefaced the statement with "My feeling was that he was call..." then of course there is the benefit of the doubt. You could argue it is implied by the human nature of the speaker, but that rabbit hole is waaaay to big for a rabbit.

  1. graxspoo

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 11-22-08

    What Apple should have done

    What Apple should have done was, rather than make iCloud, create a programming API that would be used by Mac and iOS applications, and would be satisfied by cloud hosting companies like Dropbox, and any other cloud hosting company that wanted to support Apple. The way Apple thinks it needs to do everything itself, is unfortunate. It limits consumer choice, and it pushes Apple into doing things that are not their forté and in which they have no real interest. Is it a coincidence that every web service that they've launched has pretty much bombed? No. Apple is not a web service company, and they shouldn't pretend to be one.

    Oh, and their not going to be a Dropbox competitor, because they are tilting at the windmill of "We want to do away with the file system."

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