Dropbox CEO: iCloud is a lock-in brimming with ‘bizarre limitations’

By , Mar 4, 2013

iCLoud (Documents in the Cloud teaser 001)

Apple’s iCloud, a service that brings together all of your desktop and mobile devices with seamless synch and cloud-based storage, is basically a lock-in, Dropbox CEO Drew Houston opined speaking at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. Praising his company’s cross-platform approach to file sharing, Houston blasted iCloud for imposing “bizarre limitations” on what users can do with their files, remarking that people shouldn’t really care what platform they are using in order to access their files anywhere and on any device…

Specifically, Houston criticized iCloud (via MacWorld UK) for being an exclusive Apple play, meaning folks cannot easily share their stuff between the iOS and Android platforms:

There will never be an engineer in the Apple cafeteria who’s like, hey I made the Android version of iCloud.

You shouldn’t have to care about the logo on the back of your phone or computer, it should just work with everything you have. That’s the kind of limitation we want to help remove for people.

It’s understandable that Houston would dismiss iCloud.

After all, Apple did try to acquire his cloud storage startup for a cool $800 million.

As Houston and his team wouldn’t budge, Apple’s late co-founder Steve Jobs got personally involved in negotiations, allegedly warning the Dropbox CEO that his service is “just a feature.”

Dropbox, as you know, is a cross-platform cloud storage compatible with Windows, Mac and Linux desktops as well as iOS, Android and BlackBerry smartphones and tablets. One of its biggest draws is that it takes care of the file format differences between platforms automatically and offers a free 2GB storage tier, with up to 18 GB via referrals (500 MB per referral).

In Apple’s parlance, Dropbox “just works”.

Apple has been advertising iCloud as a seamless solution which requires zero intervention on the user’s part.

One of iCloud’s most annoying drawbacks stems from the inherently locked-down nature of the iOS file system: the service limits the Documents in the Cloud feature to specific apps. For example, a Pages document synced across devices via iCloud can only be accessed using the desktop and mobile Pages app.

If users want to access that document in another app, they must first export it, which creates a copy that no longer syncs with the original app.

That’s why Apple users need third-party alternatives, such as the excellent Files app by German developer Sonico Mobile (pictured below).

Files 1.0 for iOS (iPad screenshot 005)

Files App by Sonic attempts to solve the iOS file sharing conundrum by providing a central repository for users’ files scattered across different cloud services and devices.

Files 1.0 for iOS (iPad screenshot 004)

Ubuntu chief Mark Shuttleworth thinks it’s inevitable that at some point iOS and Android will converge in terms of cloud-based storage solutions:

Apple and Google will take their platforms and converge them as well because, from a security point of view, being able to audit and manage a platform that is widely used on all of your devices is a vastly better proposition than having fragmentation across the device landscape. 

I would have certainly welcomed a more open approach to file sharing in iOS, but Apple hasn’t indicated (yet) any intent to improve upon the locked down nature of iCloud document handling.

There’s (some) hope things could change with the release of iOS 7.

The best solution, in my opinion, would be to just integrate Dropbox directly in iOS 7 akin to Facebook and Twitter integration. That’s unfortunately a long shot given Dropbox is something of a direct competitor to iCloud.

Furthermore, Dropbox is a platform now, one supported by a myriad of third-party apps, so it’s not like it’s going away anytime soon.

Which service do you use to keep your files in sync?

Dropbox, iCloud or something else?

  • Share:
  • Follow:
  • Pmcaa TM

    I bought unlock iPhone 5 from App Store. My question is “can I use this iPhone 5 in country like Nepal or Bhutan?” Please help me someone

    • iDon’tWantToShareMyDetails

      Go away!

      • felixtaf

        Plz give some respect/concern. This guy asked a question about iPhone in iPhone related blog and its not like “How to root a GS3″ in iDB. And not everyone knows everything and not every1 speaks English properly too.

      • iDon’tWantToShareMyDetails

        Respect to anonymous internet user? NEVER!

        He come here asking a question that’s completely irrelevant and didn’t even bother googling that damn question. As far knowing everything goes – its just a very nice excuse for being lazy.

      • felixtaf

        You are absolutely right. But instead of typing ‘Go Away’, you could have typed ‘You Can’. Simple as that.

      • Pmcaa TM

        Don’t be too smart. You giving your introduction.

      • iDon’tWantToShareMyDetails

        I would’ve been offended if you typed it correctly, now im smiling. The other thing is you know… how stupid are you to buy a phone before even checking if its going to work with your Carrier/Settings?? You sir are a failure

      • Pmcaa TM

        I respect you man bcoz u know how to respect other.

      • Pmcaa TM

        You bastard shut up. This is not your personal site.

    • Howard

      Yes.

    • http://www.facebook.com/mark.ansari.5 Mark Ansari

      Unlocked iphone 5 from the ‘App Store’. I lol’ed

      • s0me

        do you speak any language other than english? im just gonna leave this question here

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=558812483 Gustavo Adolfo Mirabal

        You sir, made my day. Here is my like and a +1

    • felixtaf

      It will work in all GSM networks, coz its unlocked. Btw its Apple store, not App store!

      • Pmcaa TM

        Oh yeah, thank you, good to know this

    • Mohammad Ridwan

      This is a Joke, right?

      • Pmcaa TM

        For me it is not a jok. I’m serious.

  • http://www.facebook.com/musicc.mann.3 Musicc Mann

    This is why I love Dropbox so much. It’s a cross platform application and will never care what you do with your account. It’s yours to do whatever whatever pleases you.

    • felixtaf

      Very true. Dropbox is very useful in cross-platform management and instantly updates changes too… Only advantage of iCloud is the backup/restore!

      • Kurt

        Problem with the restore, is it is painfully slow. Plus, my datadeposit tweak/app sends my data straight to dropbox.

      • felixtaf

        Yes it is. And it depends on the amount f data u have (I suppose). I have nearly 3 gb in the cloud. I usually restore it in the night. It will be ready in the morning. Sorry am not aware of the tweak/app.

      • Kurt

        I stopped using iCloud for backups. Actually i dont know what else iCloud is good for. I prefer to use backups on the computer. It just so much faster. And since it wont sync my music, I have to sync with my computer afterwards so it just defeats the purpose. But I like that iCloud will sync over the air as I normally don’t sync with the computer-only when upgrading/jailbreaking.

  • felixtaf

    I will stick with iCloud for the device backup n restore! No matter how many devices I change, its helps!

  • Mohammad Ridwan

    Agreed..

  • s0me

    dropbox, i always back up my photos with it

  • TesticularFortitude

    This is a silly argument. I could say drop box is brimming with limitations, too. It doesn’t backup my phone and I certainly can’t restore from it.

    Once Apple adds those features, Dropbox will be obsolete. On the other hand, Dropbox will never be able to duplicate icloud functionality.

  • Chuck Finley

    Dropbox is far superior to iCloud.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1384316579 Byron C Mayes

    Which do I use? Both! Dropbox probably gets more use as I use it for day to day files, including getting files from my work desktop to my home desktop (no more flash drives!!) or sharing between my work desktop Mac, my work Android phone, AND my work iPad (and having them on my iPhone and home desktop certainly doesn’t hurt).

    But I use iCloud for backup and syncing of my iOS-only apps and devices. I’m never going to want to access my personal journal on my work phone or open it in MS Word, nor will I be listening to podcasts on either of my desktops (though it’d be nice to have a desktop version of RSSRadio, just so I could say I have it). iCloud — for me at least — works faster and better in those situations.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Makavelli.1 Joseph A. Ahmad

    And this is why I don’t even use iCloud. I would like to, but there’s really not much there for me other than backing up my iPhone to the cloud which I’m still unsure about because the first time I did back it up, I got duplicates of almost everything on my iPhone eating up my onboard storage. I may have done something wrong that I’m unaware of, but I’m just going to enjoy dropbox until Apple updates iCloud, which I’m sure they will.