March 29, 2011
Today, Amazon announced the Amazon Cloud Drive. I think it is the first salvo in a series of steps that will lead Amazon to compete directly for the primary computing platform for individuals, as an online platform, as a device operating system, and as a maker of branded tablets.
Much of the attention is going to the Amazon Cloud Player, announced at the same time, which enables customers to stream music stored in Cloud Drive – Forrester’s Mark Mulligan blogged about that for Consumer Product Strategists (Amazon Beats Apple and Google to the Locker Room). But the general purpose design of Cloud Drive, combined with the long-term opportunities for personal cloud services, lead to a really interesting set of possibilities and insights into Amazon’s long-term strategy for Vendor Strategists trying to sort out the technologies and players of next-generation personal computing platforms.
The personal cloud is online services that work together to orchestrate and deliver work and personal information across personal digital devices (such as PCs, smartphones, and tablets) and is articulated in a July 2009 report. Amazon aims to join Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft as contenders for personal cloud ecosystems that provide a core set of personal services across an individual’s work and personal devices and online services. Now Amazon has a bigger head start on this than another wannabe, HP’s webOS play, which I blogged about in February (HP Synergy, Not WebOS, Is What Will Differentiate HP).
Here’s where it looks like Amazon is going, based on my research into personal cloud ideas and players, and building on the excellent prediction by Sarah Rotman Epps that Amazon will compete in tablets (Why iPad 2 Won’t Have Much Competition In 2011—Unless It’s From Amazon). Amazon will:
- Expand Cloud Drive to offer local synching and API support for apps on PCs, tablets, and smartphones, just as Dropbox and SugarSync do today. It will be built on Whispersync, which today syncs commercial media in the Kindle services.
- Expand Whispersync to sync contacts, calendar, bookmarks, user preferences, and applications, not just files stored in Cloud Drive.
- Offer email, a core prerequisite of a personal cloud ecosystem provider, plus the associated personal information management services, such as contacts and calendar. Imagine email addresses such as frank@Whispersync.com or email@example.com (I didn’t check domain ownership).
- Expand Kindle’s OS into a fully fledged OS for tablets and smartphones, to give them better control of the user experience and software platform. The newly launched Amazon AppStore would support both Android and Amazon’s own OS.
- Monetize personal cloud services through its existing mix of product sales, transactions fees from third-party merchants, Amazon Prime subscriptions, advertising, and eventually add revenues over time with service fees from employers that want to integrated their systems with their employee’s personal cloud accounts with Amazon.
All this will be built on their assets today, which consist of:
- The trust of nearly 100 million customers with stored credit cards at Amazon, who also count on Amazon to help mediate with third-party merchants.
- The ease of 1-Click buying for adding Personal Cloud storage capacity or any other subscription fees for personal cloud services.
- The technology and service platforms of Kindle services, Whispersync, Amazon Web Services infrastructure and developer services, plus the whole retail delivery platform.
For vendor strategists, this means that Amazon will be shopping for interesting technologies and startups, and will become a formidable partner and competitor in the personal cloud services market that is forming to replace the PC and Web-driven personal computing experience of the previous two decades.