Amazon set to take on iCloud with WhisperSync

Apple is set to roll out its iCloud service to keep content in sync on multiple devices, but it faces big competition from Amazon's WhisperSync and Cloud Drive.
Written by James Kendrick, Contributor

Apple has been positioning its iCloud service since detailing the features of iOS 5 a few months ago. The cloud service will let Apple customers automatically share music, photos, and apps across multiple iOS devices. Snap a photo with the iPhone and it is instantly available on an iPad synced to the same iCloud account. Apple is getting iCloud rolled out just in time, as Amazon's WhisperSync is getting ready to go head-to-head with it.

WhisperSync has a big head start on iCloud, as Amazon debuted it with the first Kindle ereader. It is the tech that makes an entire Kindle library available on multiple devices, and keeps track of which book is being read and all bookmarks, notes, and the reading position. No matter which device you pick up to continue reading a Kindle book, and that includes iPhones and iPads, the current book opens to exactly where the reader left off on another device.

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The technology works flawlessly, as my own situation demonstrates. On any given day I may use any one (or more) of five different devices running the Kindle app to read a book. I can do that due to WhisperSync, which works every time. It lets me pick up any one of these gadgets, phone or tablet, and pick up reading where I left off with no effort. It works just as well over 3G/4G and Wi-Fi.

Amazon rolled out its Cloud Player and Cloud Drive a while back, that integrate tightly with the MP3 store. You buy a song from Amazon, and it is automatically stored in the Cloud Drive for playing on any device running the Cloud Player. That means primarily Android currently, but it works well at providing instant access to a music collection from any Android device or Mac/Windows PC. Like the WhisperSync tech for the Kindle, it just works as advertised. Amazon smartly gives shoppers who buy an MP3 song from its store a 20GB Cloud Drive for free. With the launch of the Cloud Player/Drive it was clear Amazon was positioning itself for something, and after the Kindle Fire announcement we know for what.

The Kindle Fire tablet, with its Android core, will incorporate an expanded version of WhisperSync according to Amazon. In addition to the current syncing of the Kindle library and ebook information, WhisperSync on the Fire will also keep track of Amazon Instant Videos. Stop watching a video on your TV, and when you pick up the Fire later it will start right where you left off. This is significant as Amazon Instant Video is already compatible with hundreds of TVs and other devices besides the Fire. Just as quickly as Kindle owners realized how powerful WhisperSync is for ebooks, video watchers are going to come to depend on it the same.

Most likely Amazon is not going to stop with just ebooks and videos in WhisperSync. The system is already in place, has been perfected over a few years, and has demonstrated it can scale to serve the tens of millions of Kindle book owners. It has a big head start over iCloud, and Amazon knows that. Don't be surprised to see WhisperSync grow to handle any documents and media that can be stored on the Amazon Cloud Drive, and that is everything. With just a little effort Amazon can make all your stuff available to you no matter what device you pick up, as the system to do so is already in place.

Apple is quick to point out the benefits of iCloud, but it is restricted to its iOS ecosystem for the most part. Amazon's Cloud Drive coupled with WhisperSync is already compatible with Macs, PCs, and virtually all Android phones and tablets. The many TVs it works with add to the entire ecosystem for Amazon. Don't overlook that WhisperSync currently supports ebooks on the iPhone/iPad, and Amazon will no doubt try to bring the extended capability to iOS too. Whether Apple allows that to happen is not a given, as no doubt the folks in Cupertino are already watching WhisperSync very closely.

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