In the latest example of Microsoft partnering with a major competitor, the company has struck a deal with Dropbox to improve interoperability between Office and Dropbox's cloud storage and file sharing services for consumers and businesses.
The partnership, announced Tuesday, creates a "coopetition" relationship, since Microsoft's OneDrive and OneDrive for Business compete against Dropbox's namesake consumer service and against Dropbox for Business.
The motivation is to make life easier for the company's vast number of shared customers, which currently store 35 billion Office files in Dropbox. While in a perfect Microsoft world, all Office users would rely on OneDrive and OneDrive for Business, Dropbox has amassed a user base of about 300 million people. Meanwhile, Office has 1.2 billion users.
The thrust behind the deal is similar to the one motivating eyebrow-raising partnerships Microsoft has struck recently, including a cloud computing deal with IBM in October and a tie-up with Salesforce.com in May. CEO Satya Nadella has said the company will seek partnership opportunities with competitors as long as the deals yield a significant benefit for its customers by making key products from Microsoft and third parties work better together.
"You'll see more partnerships in the months ahead. It's the best way to deliver the best possible experience for our customers in today's heterogeneous mobile-first cloud-first world," he said during Microsoft's first quarter earnings call about two weeks ago.
The Dropbox partnership will focus specifically on Word, Excel and PowerPoint, making it possible for users to access Dropbox from within the Office interface. It will also be possible for users to edit Office files from the Dropbox interface and sync the changes among devices.
The new interoperability capabilities will be rolled out in the next updates to Office apps for iOS and Android in the coming weeks. They will reach the Web version of Dropbox and Office Online in the first half of 2015.
The deal also calls for Dropbox to develop a mobile app for Windows platforms in the coming months.
The features will be available to Office users with a Dropbox account. An Office 365 subscription will be required for Dropbox for Business customers.
Juan Carlos Perez covers enterprise communication/collaboration suites, operating systems, browsers and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Juan on Twitter at @JuanCPerezIDG.