Here's how Yahoo could actually become relevant to business users

Credit: Sam Pullara via Flickr

Yahoo this morning rolled out a neat integration that lets you save mail attachments directly to Dropbox. It also lets you easily attach files – even big ones that exceed Yahoo’s 25MB limit – directly from Dropbox.

The announcement got me thinking about ways that Yahoo might be able to turn shortcomings into benefits that could make it more appealing to office workers.

As the company has struggled over the past few years, it hasn't kept pace with competitors like Google and Facebook at rolling out new services. But as it turns out, that might actually be an advantage.

In this case, Yahoo doesn’t have its own online storage service. So it’s partnering with the leader in online storage for a pretty slick-looking integration. 

By contrast, Google, which has its own Google Drive storage service, is unlikely to build such a smooth integration with Dropbox. There are some third party apps that do the integration for Gmail and Dropbox, like one from Attachments.me. That service has a free tier but will cost you after you share more than 2 GB.

Same goes for Microsoft -- it's trying to push its own online storage service, SkyDrive, and has put deep hooks into SkyDrive into its latest versions of Office and Windows.

The new Yahoo feature is likely to appeal to people who are already Yahoo and Dropbox users; I doubt this alone will draw Dropbox users away from other email platforms to Yahoo.

But if Yahoo can make more of these kinds of deals with other popular services, at some point it has a chance of attracting business users.

Take Evernote -- like Dropbox, it's used widely in businesses. Yahoo Mail has a Notepad feature but it’s very, very basic. It lets you write a note and save it so that you can access it from anywhere within Yahoo Mail. A partnership with Evernote would be a great benefit to Yahoo Mail customers. Users might be able to easily add attachments from Yahoo to Evernote or share Evernote files via Yahoo Mail, in a similar setup as the Dropbox integration.

Google would be unlikely to make that kind of partnership with Gmail since it recently launched Google Keep, a very basic note-taking app of its own.

LinkedIn would be another great tie-in. Yahoo could build an add-on similar to the app available to enterprise users of Outlook that lets you add people you email with as LinkedIn connections. But Google is unlikely to build a similar service because it's got its own social network, Google Plus, to promote. Yahoo has a similar edge here if it wants to partner with Facebook or Twitter.

Yahoo does have its own conflicts – it’s not just an email service. I thought about Skype as another great partnership option for Yahoo, but Yahoo Messenger has its own chat feature so Yahoo might be reluctant to make that integration. Plus, the relationship between Yahoo and Microsoft is complicated -- the two team up on search, but Microsoft has its own suite of consumer services that compete aggressively with Yahoo.

I'll be keeping an eye on my Yahoo Mail inbox to see if the company manages other partnerships that could set it apart from the competition.

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