Yesterday evening, Amazon announced its Cloud Drive and Cloud Player, a service that goes hand-in-hand with Amazon MP3. The only problem? Uploading to Cloud Drive requires a fairly clunky process through the Web browser. It's no competition to services like Box.net and Dropbox -- and that's the point.
Some have suggested that Amazon's Cloud Drive should be similar to Dropbox or SpiderOak -- a client-side app that syncs local folders to "the cloud" as a transparent backup. Cloud Drive, on the other hand, just allows users to sync files through the browser and store MP3s purchased through Amazon MP3. If you're comparing it to Dropbox, it's terribly clunky and not at all competitive.
Is Amazon missing a beat here? I don't think so, for three reasons. First, Cloud Drive is mainly a supplement to Amazon MP3. Amazon is one-upping Apple by giving its users unlimited downloads of songs, rather than a one-time access. The upshot of this is that users no longer have to worry about a crashed drive sending their music collection into the great bitbucket in the sky. One of the reasons I've hesitated to purchase MP3s rather than CDs is the problem of storage and making sure that there's always a backup. (Yes, physical CDs have their own drawbacks there, but I'm used to those.)
The second reason? By remaining browser-based, Amazon doesn't have to worry about maintaining client-side apps for Windows, Mac OS X, and half a dozen Linux distros. It's relatively easy to maintain a browser-based application for syncing, but if they had to maintain clients for all the client OSes used by their customer base, they'd be in for some serious development headaches. Let other companies worry about providing a front-end to Amazon S3.
And that's the third reason. Dropbox and others are already using Amazon S3. Amazon seems to be wisely avoiding competing with its own customers here. It provides the commodity service to build on, and others can pay Amazon and deal with the end-user hassles that come with maintaining a backup service. Sure, some users will use Cloud Drive for more than MP3s, but far fewer than use Dropbox or another service. The money for Amazon is in providing a music service with features that Apple doesn't match.
Maybe I'm wrong, but I think Amazon has made a wise move in not providing a direct competitor with Dropbox. For those of us who are music junkies and want to maintain a seamless backup service for other documents, we'll end up using both and Amazon will make more in the long run. What do you think?
Joe 'Zonker' Brockmeier is a freelance writer and editor with more than 10 years covering IT. Formerly the openSUSE Community Manager for Novell, Brockmeier is a longtime free and open source software advocate. He has written for many publications, including Linux Magazine, Sys Admin, Linux Pro Magazine, IBM developerWorks, Linux.com, CIO.com, Linux Weekly News, ZDNet, and many others.