Amazon Web Services Moves Beyond Developer Tools

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The Great Fragmentation: We Are All Weirdos Now

Amazon Web Services is known for many things, but all of those have to do with developer services like cloud computing instances, databases and storage. Lately, however, AWS is slowly getting more into productivity tools that are meant for end users.

Amazon‘s first attempt to get into this market was Amazon Cloud Drive. It launched back in 2011, but while there are no exact numbers about its usage, I doubt all that many consumers ever signed up for it. Now — maybe in the wake of its Fire Phone launch — it feels like the company is starting to reboot its efforts, and it is doing so for enterprise users under the AWS label.

After Cloud Drive, things got pretty quiet in this space for Amazon, but last year, it launched an invite-only beta of Amazon WorkSpaces, a virtual desktop for enterprises that launched to the public in March. With WorkSpaces, an admin still has to go into the AWS Management Console and provision it, but for the user, the experience is pretty straightforward.

That project, of course, was more about virtualization than about an actual web application. With Zocalo, however, Amazon launched a full-featured competitor to Google Drive for Work and Dropbox, complete with a web-based interface. The focus here is still mostly on enterprises, and there is no free tier for consumers (though the regular price of $5 per user/month is extremely aggressive). But once it’s out of preview, it’s hard to imagine that Amazon would only allow businesses to sign up.

While Amazon itself has long offered some kinds of web apps for its e-book and music service, for example (and one could probably argue that Amazon.com is also a web app), Zocalo is a step in a very new direction for AWS. It’s also one that startups should be worried about. Dropbox started out on AWS, for example. But what if Amazon now wants a piece of this market for itself, too?

With Fire OS, the company has shown that it can do design and it’s probably no coincidence that Zocalo takes some of its design queues from Fire OS.

While it isn’t for consumers, AWS’s new mobile app analytics service similarly puts Amazon into competition with other Analytics services that were likely built on top of its architecture. Its feature set doesn’t seem to be quite on par with the likes of Flurry’s analytics service just yet, but it has a pretty generous free allowance and may just be enough for many developers.

At this point, AWS offers pretty much everything developers need to build their applications, whether that’s for mobile or web apps. While it continues to roll out new features for its services at a rapid clip, most of them are now very incremental updates. It makes sense that the company is looking at how it can expand AWS into new areas (or at least new for Amazon), and many of those involve going beyond developer services and APIs.

Amazon is nothing if not a very ambitious company and that’s on display right now with the launch of the Fire Phone and these new web services. That may irk some of its competitors in these spaces, but that’s probably not something Amazon is all that worried about.