You might say Microsoft is acknowledging there's more than OneDrive in this cloud -- with the other drive being Dropbox, which is teaming up to allow users to access its storage service directly from Office apps and edit Office files from the Dropbox app.
With the two joined services, users can edit Office files via the Dropbox mobile app and sync changes across devices. They can also create a file on their home or office computer and then finish it on their phones, with any edits automatically saved to Dropbox.
In addition, users can access Dropbox files from the Office app and save new files to Dropbox. They can also sync docs without leaving the Office app.
The joined services also enable users to share Dropbox links from Office, as well as share documents by sending a Dropbox link.
Billions of Documents
Dropbox spelled out the terms of the collaboration Tuesday on its blog. Dropbox hosts more than 35 billion Office documents, spreadsheets and presentations, according to the company. Dropbox competitor Box has been working with Office 365 since last month.
The blog posting said that the new capabilities will be available to all Dropbox users on iOS and Android in the next few weeks. Microsoft's own blog said the collaboration would happen in conjunction with coming updates to Office for iOS and Android.
Users of Dropbox for Business will have access to the same functions and features. According to a separate entry on the Dropbox blog, customers of Dropbox for Business who have Office 365 licenses will soon be able to take advantage of the new features. Microsoft's blog points to the first half of 2015 as the likely rollout date for business users.
The announcement came as something of a surprise considering that Microsoft has its own competing cloud storage service, OneDrive. But as Microsoft has said, more than 35 billion Office files are stored in Dropbox already. Both companies say the goal of the partnership is to make those billions of files easier to access and edit.
Also, since Dropbox for Business users will need Office 365 to make full use of the new features, the partnership is likely to bolster Microsoft's subscription business even if OneDrive goes away.
Collaboration over Competition?
Some observers see the partnership as a conciliatory sign from new Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. The collaboration might signal a willingness to partner with companies instead of only competing with them.
Next year, Dropbox will be adding integration between the Dropbox Web site and Office Online. And sometime in the next few months, there should be a new Dropbox app for Windows Phone and Windows tablet users, according to the Dropbox blog.
Comments from readers of the Dropbox announcement reflected some skepticism about the collaboration. "Do you remember the time when Skype used to be a great program?" asked one commenter. "What happened after Microsoft took it?"
"It got even better," retorted another reader.