First Pass at Amazon’s Cloud Drive

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The Good

  • Pricing is excellent. More generous with free storage (5 GB) and substantially cheaper ($140 less per year than Dropbox at 100 GB) than the competition. Options are straightforward and fairly tiered.
  • There’s no new Cloud Drive Android client: it’s just an update to the existing Amazon MP3 store application. Interestingly, it will play your existing music as well as streams from Cloud Drive. The interface is clean, but the store integration adds clutter and an extra click.
  • Cloud Player played the sample MP3 (Think You Can Wait by The National) I loaded via Chrome without incident both on the browser and Android (Xoom). Network connection was DSL.
  • Music purchased through the Amazon MP3 store does not count against your storage capacity.

The Bad

  • As far as I can tell, at present Cloud Drive offers no synchronization, meaning that you have to load Cloud Drive manually. This alone makes Cloud Drive a non-starter for me. Expecting users to load files and media by hand – after every purchase or update to local files – just isn’t realistic. Sync is what makes Dropbox worth paying for.
  • Service is US only, apparently. Or more accurately, anything but the 5 GB free plan is. Terms for Cloud Player aren’t as clear, but my Twitter stream is full of frustrated non-US voices.
  • No video locker. The ability to store and stream my hundreds of gigabytes of movies and TV would have been worth paying for. Music, on the other hand, is a mostly solved problem.
  • Music previously purchased through the Amazon MP3 store is not automatically inserted in your library: it has to be reuploaded.

The Ugly

  • The Android application explicitly warns users that it streams audio at its original bitrate, reminding them that they’re responsible for all data charges. In addition, the application allows users to set both delivery and streaming preferences, including wifi only. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: streaming services and mobile data pricing are on a collision course, and it’s going to get ugly. Many users will either not be aware of the difference between mobile data streaming and wifi or ignorant of the potential cost of overages, with the inevitable result being some potentially outrageous overage charges.

    None of which is Amazon’s fault, of course. But it seems likely that some portion of their user base will at some point hold Amazon partially responsible for an ugly monthly bill from their carrier.

The Net

  • Amazon Cloud Drive is interesting, and certainly the first of many streaming services to come, but the lack of sync is a full stop omission for my usage. It just isn’t compelling enough at this point to for me to consider leaving Dropbox. Ideally, Amazon’s entrance will apply some downward pricing pressure to the market, but it projects to have little utility for me otherwise.

One comment

  1. I agree. Lack of sync is a showstopper. I'll have to update/version/sync my contents manually?! Feels a lot like having a Subversion/Github repos for all my content and doing check-in/check-out/update non-stop.

    If Amazon can offer storage + web & mobile players + subscription based MP3 streaming to go with existing video streaming (like Rhapsody, Pandora) for a nominal prize, we can all forget about buying & storing music and "go cloud" all the way!

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