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Dropbox and Microsoft get cozy with partnership

A new partnership between Dropbox and Microsoft lets users edit and sync across different devices and software.A new partnership between Dropbox and Microsoft lets users edit and sync across different devices and software.
A new partnership between Dropbox and Microsoft lets users edit and sync across different devices and software.Courtesy of Dropbox

Dropbox and Microsoft have unveiled a new partnership that gives people more ways to edit and share documents.

The deal, announced Tuesday, makes allies of a tech industry giant and a fast-growing upstart seeking to gain a bigger following.

Under the partnership, Microsoft will more tightly integrate its Office software with Dropbox, a popular cloud storage service that serves as a locker for everything from documents to music to videos. Dropbox, in turn, gets prime real estate in software that is used by more than a billion people and the potential to make an even bigger name for itself — particularly with business users.

But the partnership also creates an odd alliance between two rivals in online storage. What Microsoft gains isn’t entirely clear. It already operates One Drive, a Dropbox competitor. Giving Office users easier access to their Dropbox content undercuts Microsoft’s own service, right?

“From our perspective, it about user choice,” says Kirk Koenigsbauer, chief vice president of Microsoft Office Engineering. “Of course, we have a One Drive service, which is quite differentiated — it works incredibly well for users. But there are also people who use Dropbox, and we want to provide that choice and flexibility.”

Previously, Dropbox users could only preview Office documents. However moving forward, they will be able to edit Office files inside Dropbox without switching services. Accessing Dropbox inside Office software like Microsoft Word and share those files will also be possible. According to the companies, updated versions of their mobile apps will roll out “in the next few weeks,” followed by web versions by June 2015.

The decision by Microsoft to open Office to Dropbox came in part from the launch of Office for iPad app nearly six months ago. According to Koenigsbauer, Office for iPad has been well-received — 40 million downloads and counting — but one of the features users have requested most frequently was an easy way for them to get into their to Dropbox files.

The move also hews to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s strategy of being developer-friendly and platform-agnostic approach — a vision he outlined at a company event in March. Recent moves suggest Nadella is keeping his word. Last week Microsoft’s announcement (MSFT) of a smart watch called Microsoft Band earned praise for compatibility with iPhones and Android phones, in addition to Microsoft devices.