Why Dropbox could have been reluctant to bother with Apple Silicon

I was listening to the last episode of MPU and wanted to share something that came up in a work conference that I attended in January.

We were getting training on the cloud and how the future of enterprise is the cloud. They said that most businesses these days are using tools in the cloud, using web apps for email, Google docs and sheets, or the Microsoft equivalent in OneDrive’s Word docs etc, and even some video editing and image creation with Canva etc.

There are fewer and fewer projects where people are to work alone on desktop software because most people in enterprise need to collaborate anyway, especially now everyone’s working from home and multiple people need to be able to access, collaborate and comment on documents such as PDFs, spreadsheets and presentations. Therefore, people aren’t syncing locally so that they can collaborate and don’t cause any issues with versioning.

They said that very few employees are now actually syncing files locally to their computer and suggested that more than 80% of employees in modern businesses now mostly just do everything in a web browser.

They also said that in order to avoid ransomware hacks, more companies were now telling employees to not sync anything locally to their computer and to just do everything in the browser. People were getting ransomware viruses on their computer and then it would encrypt and lock up the files in their locally synced folder and then sync across everyone else’s computer. They said that encrypting a file with the ransomware means it’s difficult to just go back to an older version of the file through version history because the “file” itself is now different.

They said that working in the browser only helps to prevent ransomware getting onto the system because the ransomware doesn’t work through the browser in the cloud.

Considering that Dropbox’s money is in enterprise and not the consumer space, combined with the fact that most people in the enterprise around the world are using Windows computers and are starting to only access their work through the browser, that could be why Dropbox could have considered not even bothering to support Apple silicon natively and why they don’t seem as focused on the sync technology as they used to.

Just throwing it out there.


It’s a possibility, although that would seem to require the entire software stack to be able to work on files that are never actually stored on the computer.

How many files can actually be worked on with the file never touching the user’s hard drive and simultaneously be stored in Dropbox?

Well most people only use documents, spreadsheets, presentations etc for work. Those doing video editing or photos etc can work locally and then upload to the work’s cloud through the browser when they’re finished. Similar to how MPU said they uploads a completed podcast to Dropbox when it’s edited. There’s probably little need to locally sync for most people.

All of them.

A system highly resistant to ransomware, etc. could be very attractive to a lot of businesses.


Hopefully they’ll invest in more high-speed internet coverage in my area then :smile:

You might have to wait a while unless Elon’s crew starts paying attention when NASA forecasts a solar storm :grinning:

But I wonder how much bandwidth W365 really needs? I used to vpn info my office and run a windows computer all day long on a 5mb circuit. And that, according to Netflix, is enough for HD streaming.

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Of course, the future is in the cloud. I think my new MacBook will be the last machine I buy that will do the computation largely locally.
It’s gonna be interesting if that is gonna help or hurt Apple. On one hand it will negate the unique user experience so prized by Apple. On the other hand the advantage of the quality mac-hardware (great keyboard, great screen, long battery life, beauty, status) is gonna be more usable and might be attractive to a wider user base.
I hope for the latter, but fear that these things are easy to copy.
We will see. It’s an interesting time. I fully believe that this fantastic new 14’ MacBook Pro will be the last traditional computer I will have ever bought, actually,

Yes and no. There’s limits where doing things on another computer somewhere else takes longer to get there and back than doing it on that original but slower computer. I think it’s more likely aspects of Computing go away. I could the concept of a file becoming something only developers/power users deal with.

Hurt, by a large margin, I think. Why would you splurge for a MacBook if you can get the same computational power and user experience streaming an OS to a Chromebook?

Also, interesting to see the contrast between this and local-first software:


To work on files via a Win365 setup though, wouldn’t that “computer” need a native client for Dropbox, which would need sync capabilities and / or access to files, such that ransomware would be an issue still?

Or is there something about a desktop in the cloud that makes it inherently mire secure than a well-secured PC?

Find me a well secured PC and then we can explore that quesiton a little :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

It’s possible that no one would need Dropbox. If everyone working on the project was using Win365, files could be created and forever remain in the Windows cloud.

These are virtual machines maintained by Microsoft. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that they are they are the equivalent of a brand new expertly set up Windows PC, each time they are booted.

I used to scan suspected files using a Windows, or Mac, virtual machine that was not connected to any network. When finished I deleted the VM, which is just a file, so there was no chance of it ever infecting anything.

Fair point, although I’m trying to think within the context of the OP’s speculation - that Dropbox’s market is corporate, so they’re not as worried about desktop clients and sync.

If corporate is going to be doing everything via Win365 PCs, which (possibly) don’t need Dropbox at all, what market would be left for Dropbox other than possibly a hope of an acqui-hire?

I agree in principle, although I’m basically talking about corporate computers with their dozens and dozens of draconian access policies. No USB, no other software, heavily managed by IT departments. :slight_smile:

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I’m in the minority, but I think services like Windows 365 will eventually replace traditional computers, smartphones, and tablets. Today I use a $50 Chromecast with Google TV 4K dongle which allows me to use anyone’s streaming service.

Tomorrow, I see a future where I can have all the computing power and storage I need available on whatever size dumb screen I should choose. I purchase an iPhone sized screen to carry in my pocket, an iPad sized one for my briefcase, and a 72 inch for my living room. All three for less than the cost of one high end MacBook. The money is in services, hardware becomes a commodity.


IMO Dropbox would have no future at all. But it’s likely their most talented employees would have found new jobs long before that happened.

I mostly agree with you, though I think the other way it seems to be going is toward browser-tech based apps that run locally and leverage cloud backends. The growth in application provision is definitely going toward those two models and I suspect we’ll se a hybrid of them for the foreseeable future. Neither of these models requires or leans heavily on local storage, though one of them does still benefit from local processing.

That’s definitely a possibility. My theory is a mashup of what I’ve observed (mainframes to pcs, to mobile etc. and back to “mainframes” i.e. cloud) - combined with razorblade marketing. (give away the razor to sell the blades)

The majority of smartphones in the world are android sets. Apple makes most of the money but only sells around 20% of the total.

Is there a market for a company like Microsoft or Amazon to sell thin client screens that can provide the function of anything from a basic smartphone to that of a supercomputer? The technology already exists and there are around 3.5 billion people using smartphones made by someone other than Apple or Samsung. Seems like someone will eventually give it a try.

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The future for web-based software looks bright. The cost to develop mature, high-performance applications in the browser is going to drop significantly over the next several years as the web assembly tech stack matures (right now it requires significant fundraising or doing the project at a large tech company.)

These apps are more collaborative, which smooths out individual contributions, and less capable of exploratory work than what’s possible when fully using a computer. This is okay if these tools are paired with use of more creative and powerful local software, choice of software and hardware to fit individuals’ working styles, intuitive low-latency human-computer interaction, ability to disconnect and focus, and so on.

It’s not good for the results of heavy SaaS use if those complementary tools and choices are taken away. Predictable, controlled, unsurprising work is attractive in a lot of companies these days, whether due to their size, running an inflexible product growth playbook, or just a staid or pessimistic outlook.

In those kinds of organizations, there aren’t many advocates who will defend letting individuals retain the potential to do something that their manager and IT director hasn’t already thought of.

Hopefully the output of companies that prioritize well-equipped and accommodated employees will continue to keep Windows 365 and the like relegated to work environments that are already irreparably low-trust.


Mainframes were everything. Then it was all about personal computers. Then dial-up platforms. Laptops! The Web! Thin clients!

Remember how web apps were going to replace everything? Then native apps got better. Now we’re all going to live in cloud…. Give it a few years.

I’m not saying nothing has changed or that nothing will. Plenty has, plenty more will. But I’ll believe predictions of sweeping changes to the way computers work when they actually happen. And then I’ll keep an eye on the clock for when they inevitably unravel or otherwise shift in unpredictable ways.

I suspect the people making computers* will find ways to keep them relevant even as cloud computing appears to be eating their lunch. And similarly, I expect the cloud wizards to catch up again, and then raise the ante as they go.

Rinse. Repeat.

*including phone, tablets, smart watches, glasses and other gizmos with reasonably powerful processors