Dropbox and iWork.com

January 9th, 2009

Chris Bowler wrote a piece on Dropbox today, and made a comparison that hadn’t occurred to me:

When I saw the update to iWork at this week’s Keynote at Macworld, my first thought was that iWork.com couldn’t hold a candle to Dropbox. Rather than simply give a view-only copy of a file to your friends, coworkers or clients, Dropbox allows each person to have access to update the files as well. Working on a Pages document? The other folks can still add comments, but within the document itself. And with Dropbox, you are not limited to the iWork suite, but can share all your files.3

It’s a good point. Dropbox is free, hooks right in to the Finder, provides excellent version control (iWork.com does not, which is its biggest missing feature), and is more versatile — users can organize their file structure however they choose, and share whatever files they need to.

It seems to me that Dropbox is a better service for individuals working closely together for extended periods of time — within companies, or ongoing projects that demands close sharing. It’s powerful, and it’s convenient. Users in these cases also tend to be using the same software, so sharing different file types isn’t necessary.

iWork.com, though, looks like it is designed for more simple work scenarios. It works better for documents which need thoughts and corrections — the person sharing it is the sole content owner and creator, and the reviewer is just that, a reviewer. I am looking forward to using this in school, both to receive thoughts from classmates on my work, and to turn in work to professors.

The reason it is so convenient for this is because it is easy. I can upload it to iWork.com, type in multiple people’s emails all in one go, and I’m finished — no need to export to different file types, because iWork does that for me. The people I send it to can read it in the browser, or download it to their computer in whatever file format they choose. No extra work for me.

I think, then, that Dropbox and iWork.com aren’t competitors at all, because they’re targeted at different uses and groups. Dropbox is for close collaboration, and iWork.com is for simple sharing.