Cloud Computing

Amazon Coaxes Consumers Cloudward

Amazon has announced three enhancements to its Cloud Drive and Cloud Player services, which launched earlier this year: a storage plan with unlimited space for music; free storage for all Amazon MP3 purchases; and iPad support for Cloud Player for Web.

The Cloud Drive allows users to upload files to a digital drive that can be accessed from a range of devices with online connectivity.

Cloud Drive already offers customers 5 GB of free storage space. Now — for a limited time, according to Amazon — US$20 a year will buy unlimited space for music and 20 GB for other file storage.

Amazon is also adding free storage for all MP3s purchased currently and in the past from Amazon MP3. These purchases will not count against a customer’s total storage limit.

Cloud Player for Web on iPad is another new addition. Cloud Player allows the user to play music stored in the cloud on any Android phone, Android tablet, Mac, PC — and now iPad. The Cloud Player for Web has been optimized for streaming playback using the Safari Browser for iPad.

Amazon did not respond to the E-Commerce Times’ request for comments by press time.

Room for Improvement

While its latest improvements are welcome, Amazon still has some grand to cover.

“This announcement adds a few new features but is by no means an overhaul,” Aapo Markkanen, senior analyst for consumer mobility at ABI Research, told the E-Commerce Times.

“I don’t see this as a major upgrade,” he said. “It’s obviously an improvement to the first version of the service, but they still haven’t signed the deals with the rights-holders and thus lack the central repository for the tracks. Users have to upload the content by themselves, which is cumbersome.”

Apple’s offering isn’t much better, in Markkanen’s view. Users are not presented with “music you would also like” tools. Instead, they just get a place to stack their existing catalog files.

“The problem with all these digital locker models is that their catalogs are limited to the music that you already possess, and they don’t allow you to discover new stuff,” said Markkanen. “It’s mere storage, not much more. If you ask me, seamless discovery and recommendation of new songs and albums is the most exciting area in the cloud music space.”

Pluses and Minuses for Amazon

One of the big pluses for Amazon is its long-standing position within the music industry.

It “has relationships with music providers that rivals Apple’s,” Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, told the E-Commerce Times. “They’ve been in music for years as a retailer, while Apple is a hardware provider. So Amazon has a core area of strength in music. Plus, they’re not tied to any hardware product. They make sure their product works on everything. They’re the Switzerland. They stay neutral, and they’re very good at doing that.”

Enderle noted that another side of the cloud battle is device integration.

“Apple is successful because they tie everything into one solution, and they have the most popular device for consumer music right now,” said Enderle. “Amazon covers everything except the iPod, but the iPod happens to be the most popular device right now.”

Given its ability to scale quickly, Amazon is probably one of the few companies that can make a $20 annual fee work.

“It’s a subscription-based service,” said Enderle. “For parents, paying $20 for a year beats worrying about getting sued for pirating. This is a price people can get excited about. The fact they can do $20 a year and be profitable, that’s quite a feat.”

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