There’s been a fair amount of interest lately in Apple’s recently announced iCloud service that brings greater attention to the cloud based storage options available to consumers today. So far so good. It doesn’t really seem much like innovation when Amazon has effectively been doing it with the Kindle on a small scale for a few years now though. What new and exciting thing are they bringing to the table for their portable devices that isn’t available anywhere else?
The vision that we are given for the Apple iCloud is a service that just works. It knows what you own, makes sure it is available on every device you own at all times, and generally makes your life better. The focus is on music, of course. On these points, I think a comparison with the Whispernet situation is relevant. Your Amazon account will keep track of all your books, make sure that every registered device can access them (and thanks to the many Kindle apps, that means almost anything you own with a screen on it regardless of who makes it), and keep everything nice and consistent during transitions. It’s the same concept in a lot of ways.
The one point where we have to give Apple loads of credit is on their iTunes Matching idea. They actually found a way to make people want to pay money to listen to things they already either own or have pirated. It’s impressive. Your whole library is available whenever you want it so long as you keep up with your annual fee. In spite of this, I don’t think they quite thought it through enough. Sure, people will be willing to sync their music, but to really set themselves apart a streaming solution would have worked a lot better. As it is, you end up having to download every song you own to every device you might want to listen to it on. You might as well be just plugging in your iOS devices and syncing to a computer at that point. It isn’t that the iCloud is a bad idea, just that it doesn’t really do anything all that exciting for the money they are asking.
Amazon offers a similar cloud-based media service that also fails to offer streaming for now. It doesn’t have the matching ability that Apple offers, but it does have a smaller sized free account option and pretty much everything else that the iCloud brings to the table. If I had to guess, I would say that between the Amazon Cloud Drive and their Android App Store Amazon is getting into a position to do for their upcoming Kindle Tablet line, which will likely eventually compete with Apple in most slots including an iPod Touch equivalent, what the iCloud does for iOS. The only differences would seem to be that Amazon doesn’t have Apple’s history of multiple failed efforts to push cloud storage and they do have at least one market specific experience with how to do it right, thanks to the Kindle.