Dropbox Launches Carousel Photo Sharing App – A Game Changer For DAM?

Last week, Cloud Storage provider, Dropbox, announced they were launching a media sharing application called Carousel.  This allows simplified browsing of images or video held in your account and (more importantly) it includes features to share this media with other users.  Carousel is delivered as a mobile application and appears to be targeted at consumers:

We also think those memories are meant to be shared. That’s why we built private conversations into Carousel — as a way to relive entire events with friends and family. With Carousel, you can share hundreds of photos in the same amount of time it’d take to send just one by text. Even more, you can capture an event from every angle by saving the photos others share with you.” [Read More]

The product release itself does not look like a game-changing event and is unlikely to compete with low-end DAM-Lite solutions, let alone more extensive products.  What is a more interesting proposition is whether applications like Carousel are re-defining the baseline user expectations for Digital Asset Management and what implications that might have for existing vendors.  An observation my co-contributor at DAM News made some time ago is that general operating systems have started to acquire many of the core functions once exclusively occupied by early-stage DAM systems, for example: basic searches, features to view media as thumbnails and media playback.  It seems like Cloud storage vendors are manoeuvring to offer the same, but the key differentiator is the sharing capabilities which a network drive with the thumbnails mode switched on cannot offer.

I do not know if Carousel is necessarily going to be their automatic product of choice (for some, perhaps, especially Dropbox users).  I would expect Google to add similar options to Google Drive soon.  Box et al will surely follow suit (if they have not already).  A lot of more casual business-oriented DAM users are likely to only ever need to deposit files and share them with a group of geographically dispersed colleagues.  Where previously they might have been inclined to procure a web-based DAM system to meet that requirement, commodity Cloud applications like this might fulfil that need.

This is not going to be the end of the current DAM market as we know it, since modern examples of DAM have needed to become so much more versatile to answer all of their user’s various esoteric needs.  Metadata (or the apparent lack of it) is one massive limitation with the simpler file sharing model and some might reasonably argue that it is the key distinction for DAM.  However, the appearance of many of these rudimentary but free and very easy to use apps will raise the bar about what is justifiable in terms of on-going expenditure into DAM initiatives.  Basic but high user volume tools require DAM vendors (and indeed, the whole industry) to do a better job of justifying their existence as many may ask is what else they can offer and whether it is worth paying the higher prices involved to implement DAM.  At the very least, I can foresee these being used to defer expenditure for a period of time.

One aspect of DAM that becomes important even for relatively low budget implementations is the consultancy element to the whole exercise.  There is an expectation with a system like Carousel that you are going to be setting this up yourself, with more sophisticated DAM implementations, most clients envisage someone to be on-hand to train them and explain it.  As we have described many times on DAM News, client education and provision of credible learning materials is essential to successful implementation.

That often over-used word ‘solution’ does seem to have increased significance for DAM now.  When I work with clients, the lines between what my firm as DAM consultants provides and the services a DAM software vendor offers are blurry ones.  Many times, we are asked to help the vendor solve some fairly low-level issues by understanding the finer technical points of any constraints they are working within.  That might also necessitate explaining the issue to the client in a manner they can more readily understand.  Going the other direction, vendors are increasingly being obliged to properly understand the wider business context that their system will be used in and  explain how they will help fulfil the resulting objectives.

Budget or low-end applications like Dropbox’s Carousel are going to place further upward pressure on the scope of what existing DAM market participants are expected to provide.  Anything that looks like ‘low hanging fruit’ will increasingly be picked by these more generic products and promoted using their existing sales channels to generate the required scale to make it economic for them and encourage wider of their platforms.  That will slice away anyone who just wants to put a DAM product out there with and let end users get on with it themselves, unless they plan to do so for little or no cost applied to the end user.  Additionally, if the complexity of individual enterprise needs is rising, the degree to which other service providers have to specialise (or at the very least sub-divide themselves into different business units) might also move in the same direction.

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