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Dropbox diversifies beyond storage with photos, collaboration apps

Dropbox diversifies beyond storage with photos, collaboration apps

Carousel is designed for organizing and sharing photos while Project Harmony seeks to improve co-editing of Office files

Dropbox CEO Drew Houston, admiring photos that can now be stored and shared with the company's new Carousel app.

Dropbox CEO Drew Houston, admiring photos that can now be stored and shared with the company's new Carousel app.

Dropbox, the cloud storage and file sharing vendor, is expanding its scope into photo management and document collaboration.

The new products, announced Wednesday, are part of an ambitious effort by the company to provide its customers with productivity and organization tools.

"We're moving from one app, called Dropbox, to a family of apps," said Dropbox CEO Drew Houston during a launch event in San Francisco.

A mobile app called Carousel, available now on iOS and Android, is intended to consolidate in one interface photos stored in Dropbox and the smartphone's native photo app.

A Carousel user can share photos with other people even if they don't have the application. Those people will receive an alert via SMS or email with a link to the photos. However, a chat function in Carousel requires that all participants have the application installed.

A new service aimed at businesses, called "Project Harmony," is designed to provide easier collaboration on work documents by letting multiple people edit the same file simultaneously.

The tool is based on an integration with Microsoft Office. When Dropbox users work together on a PowerPoint, Excel or Word file, Dropbox will display visual cues to alert them when someone else makes edits, and then syncs the changes. The service also incorporates a chat service directly into the Microsoft software's interface.

Project Harmony will work across PCs and Macs. The company said integrations with other software would likely come later.

Also for work users, the company announced the general availability of its Dropbox for Business product.

Additionally, Dropbox announced a desktop and Android version of its Mailbox app. The Android version, available now, features an automatic "Auto-Swipe" feature designed to automatically predict which email messages users might want deleted. The desktop version will employ the computer's trackpad to provide gesture features similar to the mobile versions of the app, and is available in limited beta. Dropbox already had a Mailbox app for iOS.

Dropbox reported impressive user growth. It now has 275 million users, up from roughly 200 million late last year. But the company faces tough competition as it tries to retain and gain users.

Google last month slashed the price of its 1TB Drive plan from US$49.99 to $9.99 a month. Meanwhile, Amazon and Microsoft recently dropped their cloud storage prices by up to 50 percent.

Dropbox offers a free account with 2GB of storage and fee-based ones with more capacity.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

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