Dropbox CEO Drew Houston Opens The Door To Samsung’s Competitors: ‘We’d Love To Work With You’

Drew Houston, the CEO of Dropbox, said that staying independent was a key part of Dropbox’s strategy; and with mobile being the most important platform for picking up new users, Dropbox was looking for more handset makers and carriers for partnerships along the lines of the one it has with Samsung, as he described his cloud storage company as being in its “Apple 2 phase.”

“We’re in the Apple 2 phase of Dropbox,” he said, referring to the time when Apple hadn’t yet made the Macintosh.

What does he mean by this? Houston said he believes that Dropbox is only “just scratching the surface” of what it can do in partnership with others.

“If we’re not already working together, we’d love to work with you,” he said to an audience of smartphone markers and operators — the same people that Houston has been taking meetings with in Barcelona this week. “All these opportunities are being left on the ground today. Do you want to see [all your] photos? Or plug in your business? There’s a ton of upside that we can share on that front.”

The evolution of mobile services — and exploding usage of smartphones and tablets — presents one of the biggest opportunities for cloud storage companies like Dropbox. People are on the move, and they often interchange their devices, and those light devices usually don’t have enough storage for the mass of data that we have accumulated in our connected lives. So it comes as no surprise that mobile has been big business already for Dropbox.

Houston said that mobile became the single most popular platform for signups to Dropbox last year — due in no small part to the company’s close relationship with Samsung.

In 2012, the two started to offer 50GB of free storage as well as close integration on Samsung devices like the flagship Galaxy S III, as well as the Galaxy Camera and Galaxy Note II, making it easier to upload your data into Dropbox from applications on those devices. In January, that deal extended even further to cover several new devices, including the Galaxy Grand and more cameras.

Those latest devices will begin to roll out in March 2013 — so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Galaxy SIV included in that list, too.

Samsung is the most integrated, but it is not the only device maker that works with Dropbox. There is also HTC (which offers 25GB of free storage on the HTC One), Sony, and other device makers that Dropbox tells me that it cannot yet disclose.

Indeed, Houston said that the deal with Samsung is not exclusive. “One of the main things for us is to remain independent,” he said. “You shouldn’t have to care what logo is on the back of your phone [to know your device will access your cloud of data].” Referring to companies like Google and Apple, who have both also made big efforts to develop cloud services, he believes that these are too limiting because they are proprietary. “In practice, it’s hard to stomach one of your competitors building for your platform,” he said.

Houston also hinted that partnerships don’t necessarily translate to smooth relationships, especially in these early, “Apple 2” days of Dropbox’s life. “Our partnership with Samsung in early days was challenging,” he said. “They had built their own cloud service, because they couldn’t see how they could differentiate with Dropbox. But then they launched [our partnered service] and customers loved it because they get extra Dropbox space.”

The company last year revealed that it’s seeing 1 billion files uploaded per day, over 500 million connected devices, and 100 million subscribers.