What Amazon’s Cloud Drive Means for You

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With the launch of Cloud Drive and Cloud Player (see our earlier report here), Amazon has jumped the gun and pulled attention away from its rivals Google and Apple.

The details of the Cloud Drive service are a dream come true to a lot of geeks: 5GB of storage for free, a great starting point and sufficient for a handful of albums worth of music.

If you want another 20GB, all you have to do is buy an album in MP3 format from Amazon. The album itself won’t eat up any of your storage allocation, but simply purchasing it gets you the 20GB upgrade for a year.

Want more space? Sure, just buy it. Prices are reasonable, and very easy to remember. Want 50GB? That’s 50 bucks per year. 100GB is $100.

What’s clever about Amazon’s solution is its likely appeal to a wide variety of customers. It’s great if you like to own your music, because you still do. It’s great if you prefer to stream music, because you still can.

Nothing’s really changed, except the place where the music files are kept. They used to be on your computer’s hard disk. Now they’re in the cloud. As long as you can still listen to them, who cares where they are?

Amazon has reached this point by cleverly investing in its online storage technologies in recent years. It began by innovating with services like S3, a cloud-based storage system for web developers. Now that S3 is successful (and dependable), Amazon’s taken the next obvious step: open the same network up to consumers, and make it very easy to use.

What’s more, Cloud Drive is aptly named. It’s not just for music. You can put any files you like up there. It’s a drive, in the cloud.

Amazon’s launch means we’ll see Apple and Google unveiling their rival services as soon as they can complete them. Other companies will follow. In a year from now, we’ll be swimming in cloud drive services.

The result? The ever-hastening death of the hard disk. You just won’t need one any more. New computers will come with solid state drives – still with many gigabytes of storage space, and each generation cheaper than the one before – but most people will store most stuff in cloud services. Even backup drives will fade away, because it will be just as effective to copy your data between clouds, and be sure there are multiple copies of it.

Another obvious step is yet to come: a multi-purpose Amazon tablet that combines the sleek stylings of the Kindle with the huge storage capacity of Cloud Drive.

Amazon boss Jeff Bezos has pulled off something remarkable. He’s stolen Apple’s thunder, and, ahem, kindled a new round of speculation among tech pundits everywhere: could an online retailer beat the computer hardware industry to a tablet device that can really give the iPad some serious competition?

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