Cloud storage firm Dropbox has unveiled the latest attempt to gain the edge on its rivals with Project Infinite, a real-time cloud access service.
Project Infinite is very similar in principle to the live, instant syncing that Microsoft originally put into OneDrive on Windows 8 (then took out, and is now rumoured to be putting back).
It works by assigning placeholders to files interacted with in the cloud, which then download the file to the device's local drive and sync the information if the file is changed.
This allows instant Windows or Mac OS GUI access to cloud files with full reports of the file's location and status. It also theoretically provides more flexibility if the user goes offline or wants to keep a more careful eye on space.
It works on Windows 10, 8 and 7. "Project Infinite works everywhere. It's cross-compatible, just like Dropbox. Dropbox adapts to you," said Ben Newhouse, who has the dubious title of minister of magic at Dropbox, at this morning's unveiling in London.
"What makes it different? Rather than build an entirely new file system, we put it deeply in the core of the one you already have. So it gives performance while offering breakthrough functionality."
V3 spoke to Genevieve Sheehan, product manager for business and enterprise at Dropbox, and Rob Baesman, head of product, after the presentation.
Sheehan explained how Infinite's main difference from the standard features of Dropbox is how it will "show the file and its full location on the file system", as well as the obvious instant syncing features.
"You can just choose to have it sync down and access it from [the device], and that's the part that happens on-demand, and that's the differentiator between what we already deliver and what Project Infinite offers," she said.
Like Dropbox before it, changes to large files will still be saved and patched back up to the existing file on the cloud, rather than a 10GB file having to be downloaded and re-uploaded when using Project Infinite.
Sheehan said that this is useful if "you have all your personal photos stored off a device, [but] still want to see them there and they're stored on the web", or for "team folders in which people are adding other content and you don't want that to continue to be synced to your device and take up space without you knowing it's there. So it's all visible in the same space."
V3 asked about mobile functionality for Android or iOS. "In some respects, I'd say it's slightly inspired by mobile because, in a way, mobile devices have had to work this way to begin with," said Baesman.
"A phone has a really small hard drive, so in a sense we're bringing that sense of light touch you already have on a mobile to the desktop."
Charles Ludwick, IT manager for architecture and engineering at Expedia, has used Dropbox's enterprise products for nine months and is cautiously enthusiastic about Project Infinite.
"I know some members of my team have been interested in [an idea like Project Infinite] for a while. It just hasn't happened yet," he explained.
"It sounds really good in theory, but I have so many questions about how it will work on the back end that it's a little early for me to say whether it would work for Expedia. Looking at the presentation it looks great, but we've got to dig in to see how things work before we know."
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