Amazon versus everybody: AWS intros collaboration tool and mobile backend

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Amazon's imperial march for the enterprise.

Never accuse Amazon Web Services of a lack of ambition: The cloud titan today introduced a new enterprise cloud collaboration solution called Amazon Zocalo, that puts Amazon Web Services directly into competition with the likes of Microsoft Office 365, Google Drive for Work, Box, and Dropbox. And if that weren't enough, the company also unveiled AWS Mobile Services, a mobile backend-as-a-service (BaaS) designed to make life easier for Apple iOS, Android, and Fire OS mobile app developers to build on the AWS ecosystem. 


At the most basic level, Amazon Zocalo is a cloud file sync-and-store system of the "It's like Dropbox, but" school that we've seen a million times before (Including with the consumer-focused Amazon Cloud Drive, which is meant more to support the retail side's music business than anything).

It has a design aesthetic very similar to the Fire OS that powers Amazon's consumer tablets and phone, and a $5 per user per month price tag that comes with 200GB of storage. Apps are available for iPad, Kindle Fire, and the Fire Phone, assuming anyone using the latter two devices cares about enterprise file sync. 

On top of that, Zocalo offers Google Docs-like document editing in the browser, and offers Microsoft Sharepoint-style document annotation and management.

The entire thing is underpinned by the Amazon S3 cloud storage service. As a note from GigaOM Research points out, Amazon Zocalo may not just be a handy enterprise tool on its own -- it may be the killer app that its nascent WorkSpaces desktop-as-a-service (DaaS) offering needs to offer cross-platform productivity.

As for Amazon Zocalo's prospects, it's hard to say without getting a deeper look at the product. But on paper, it's a clear note to Box, Dropbox, Google, and all the other collaboration companies that Amazon is now taking on directly: Cloud storage and collaboration alone isn't enough to compete.

There is one thing I wonder about, though: Is "hubris" even in Amazon Zocalo's spelling dictionary? 

AWS Mobile Services

As for AWS Mobile Services, it's a pretty standard backend of the type that mobile  developers are increasingly turning to as they look to power up their apps with services provided through the public cloud. It includes the new Amazon Cognito identity and data sync management tool that lets a user's data follow them from device to device with their Amazon, Google, or Facebook account. 

Also new for AWS Mobile Services is AWS Mobile Analytics, which does exactly what it says on the tin, helping developers understand app usage. There's also AWS SNS Mobile Push, the requisite push notifications manager helping developers manage how users get those annoying chirp-ins. 

The other part of AWS Mobile Services is a general investment in making it easier for developers to take advantage of the rest of the AWS ecosystem with their apps: An Amazon S3 transfer manager streamlines file upload and download; an Amazon DynamoDB Mapper tool lets developers move stuff into its hosted NoSQL database service; an AWS Mobile SDK offers direct access to the lion's share of AWS services, including EC2 compute, Auto Scaling, and all the other mobile-specific services mentioned above. 

On the one hand, there's no better time for Amazon to get into the backend market -- AWS is the de facto cloud standard, and so many developers are already invested in its cloud ecosystem that making it easier for them to build out mobile apps is a no-brainer.

But on the other hand, many of Amazon's customers, including Facebook's Parse and Kinvey, are in this exact same business, putting them into direct competition with people who have been doing this for a lot longer on the exact same infrastructure. Of course, those competitors can't offer deep AWS integration of this type. 

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