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Instant Analysis: Will Dropbox's Project Infinite Finally Set It Apart?

Dropbox indulging in coffee with a side of marketing at this year's Sundance Film Festival.

Facing persistent competition from Alphabet (NASDAQ: GOOGL) (NASDAQ: GOOG), Amazon.com (NASDAQ: AMZN), and pure-play alternatives from Box (NYSE: BOX), Dropbox this week showed attendees of its Open conference in London a new version of its technology that would allow users to access an unlimited number of cloud-hosted files straight from a computer file system such as Windows' Explorer or Mac OS X's Finder.

Called Project Infinite, the idea is to provide one interface for accessing every file while eliminating the need for users to pay up for hard drive space. That's a departure from how Dropbox and others like it have operated in the past, downloading and syncing data from the cloud in order to make it quickly accessible on a local machine.

Does it matter?
Dropbox isn't a public company, so we can't call this thesis-altering news. And yet the technology could alter how competitors address cloud storage. The bigger guys aren't keen to offer much without extracting a premium.

Take Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT), which recently announced plans to drop the storage limit for users of the free version of OneDrive from 15GB to just 5GB. Project Infinite could give users a reason to buy cloud storage as a stand-alone service rather than as part of Microsoft's Office 365 suite or comparable offerings from Alphabet or Amazon. Box may not see any impact at all, if only because the company positions itself to serve large accounts with built-in collaboration and security. The amount of storage Box offers doesn't matter nearly as much as those other features.

Regardless, the cloud storage business appears to be changing for the better, and that's good news for those of us who've come to depend on it.