Amazon tries to catch up in personal cloud storage and falls further behind

With the release of Google Drive, all the other personal cloud storage companies had to play catch-up. One, Amazon, has tripped.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

Ignore the Web page, the Amazon Cloud Drive App. will run on XP.

Ignore the Web page, the Amazon Cloud Drive App. will run on XP.

Google Drive isn't the holy grail of personal cloud services. But, Google Drive's introduction has forced all the other players to up their game. Microsoft added paid storage options to SkyDrive. Dropbox doubled the free storage you got for bringing friends and families on board. And, Amazon introduced a desktop client for its Amazon Cloud Drive. Unfortunately, it's just not that good.

First, if you don't know the Amazon Cloud Drive, like the other personal cloud storage services, it offers you 5GBs of free storage for starters. You can also store any MP3 music files you buy from Amazon in it without those counting towards your limit.

You can also buy more Amazon Cloud Drive storage at the rate of a dollar a GB per year. All the paid plans also offer unlimited music storage. Before you upload every MP3 in your collection to the Amazon Cloud you'll want to take a close look at the service's terms of service. They're disquieting.

First look at Amazon Cloud Drive app (Gallery)

But, until today, to use any of that on a desktop you had to go through a browser. One of the best features of the new big three of cloud storage, Dropbox, Google Drive, and SkyDrive is that they have desktop clients that make moving files around on Windows and Macs as easy as moving files around on your hard drive. So, when Amazon released its desktop client that's what I expected to get. I was disappointed.

First, the Amazon Cloud Drive Desktop App only runs on Snow Leopard and Lion on Macs and it claims that it will only run on Windows 7 and Vista. What? No XP? Only the single most popular operating system on the planet? I can grump about lack of Linux support as well, but no XP? Well, despite what the app's splash-page says, it does run on XP. I checked it myself on my XP SP3 test box.

Once you have though, you'll find that it's disappointing. First, you can't open the Amazon Cloud Drive for downloading as it were just another local drive or, for that matter, the modern generation of cloud drives. No, when you “open” the drive, your default Web browser opens up to let you access the cloud copies of your files. That's annoying.

Next, to upload files you must either pick them, and then select an option to upload them to the Amazon Cloud Drive. That's two steps instead of the one that other cloud storage companies require. Or, you can drag and drop them on the teeny-tiny Amazon cloud icon on your taskbar. Yeah, that's going to happen.

If this were 2010, I'd say this was a nice little program. But, it's not. It's 2012. Things have advanced. This is, at best, a half-step to delivering easy-to-use cloud storage services. If Amazon wants to be a player in personal cloud storage, they'll need to do better. Oh, and could you please fix that splash-page, or millions of happy Amazon customers will never even try the version of the application that you're offering today.

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