Dad, on Facebook, you posted

Just signed up for Amazon’s new Cloud Drive service. 5 GB of free online storage for my files, accessible from any Web browser. I believe I can find ways to use that.

I’ve been enjoying Cloud Drive quite a lot, so you may be surprised when I say that you probably don’t want to use it. It sounds like what you want is Dropbox1. For having generic files available from anywhere, Cloud Drive is still an inferior solution, because it lacks the client-side programs that let you treat your Dropbox like just another folder on your hard drive that gets backed up in the background. For both synchronization and universal ease of access, Dropbox doesn’t have much to fear right now.

On the other hand, Amazon Cloud Drive is a clear winner in two places. The first is pricing. The free Dropbox account gives you 2GB which is enough for synchronizing things like papers and images, but is woefully insufficient for backup and archiving. Dropbox’s two paid plans are $10 or $20 per month for way more storage than you need. On the other hand, Amazon Cloud Drive lets you buy a gigabyte-year (like a kilowatt-hour) at a time. So for archiving my 8 gigabytes of music, it’s drastically cheaper and closer to what I need.

Secondly, Amazon Cloud Drive’s real magic is in the Cloud Player, which lets you upload your entire music collection to it. What that lets you do is stream your music from there to any Android phone or machine with a web browser without having to download the tracks first. It gives you another way to dig way back in your music collection without having to have the whole thing on your phone (née MP3 player). Way cool for me, so now I don’t have to carry around the six Barenaked Ladies albums I own on the off chance I want to listen to one. Bonus: any album you buy from Amazon MP3 going forward can be put on your Cloud Drive without counting against your storage quota.

So, what I’m saying is, Amazon Cloud Drive is a way cool service, but I think the service you want to use (and have mentioned wanting to use for a while) is Dropbox.

Edit: I forgot to mention Dropbox’s potential to compete here. First of all, there is no reason that their plans can or should be so limiting and restrictive. I strongly suspect they will be rolling out space-time (i.e. gigabyte-year, megabyte-month, byte-second) based billing soon, to match Amazon.

Likewise, Dropbox already has the infrastructure to stream music: you can stream a single song through the Dropbox mobile applications, but only one at a time. Notably, however, Dropbox just publishes the song file so that it can be streamed in your audio player of choice, instead of Amazon’s competent-but-unremarkable audio player.

While this is seen as a shot across the bow of Google and Apple who are rumored to be planning similar services, the place we’ll see the most change in the short term is Dropbox, who will have to work to compete with the new Cloud Player.

1. Full disclosure: that’s a referral link. Using it gives both the referrer (me) and the referee (you) an extra 250MB of storage on our Dropboxes.