Amazon points EC2 at video transcoding

Amazon has launched its own pay-per minute service for transcoding video formats for end-user devices that puts it in competition with some of its customers.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) on Tuesday announced a video-transcoding service, Elastic Transcoder, which adds an interesting service layer to its cloud infrastructure and pits it against a few of its own customers.

AWS might have customers that sell transcoding services on EC2, but that did not stop it from launching a service that not only rivals its customers, but significantly undercuts their pricing.

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The transcoding service is aimed at almost any company that produces content. They all need to transcode video files from their source format to one that is compatible for display on smartphones, tablets, and PCs, and until relatively recently that process was achieved using in-house desktop and servers.

In a nutshell, Elastic Transcoder offers developers a transcoding workflow, the ability to process multiple files in parallel and scalable compute power thanks to EC2. Amazon's Elastic Transcoder supports input formats 3GP, AAC, AVI, FLV, MP4, and MPEG-2 and outputs to H.264/AAC/MP4.

The launch of Elastic Transcoder may be bad news for some of Amazon's customers. The cloud giant has both end-user customers that rely on EC2 for transcoding their own content, and others that deliver transcoding services to their own customers on EC2.

Netflix and PBS are prime examples of the former, while the latter include video encoding and transcoding players like Sorenson Media and Zencoder. Amazon has undercut the pricing of both customers, setting its standard-definition output price at $0.015 per minute of processing (or 90 cents an hour) and high-definition output at $0.03 per minute processing (or $1.80 an hour).

That's significantly less than Sorenson's EC2-supported Squeeze Server, which is available from $8 per hour and is the service that digital photo company Shutterfly uses for transcoding. Zencoder's service, meanwhile, is available for 2 cents per minute.

The service has launched across all six AWS regions: US East (North Virginia), US West (Oregon), US West (North California), EU (Ireland), Asia-Pacific (Singapore), and Asia-Pacific (Tokyo).