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Amazon Has a Huge Opportunity on Palm’s Pre

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Although I’m planning to get a Palm Pre handset next weekend in two weeks, I’m sort of disappointed in one particular feature. The phone only has 8GB of storage capacity and some of that is taken up by the operating system. I’m bummed by that for two reasons. My current everyday handset is the first-generation 8GB iPhone, so I’m not gaining anything in the storage department. Secondly, my current digital audio library is 9GB in size. That’s why I store my media locally and in the cloud: The music that I can’t fit on my phone can be streamed from the cloud. Currently, I’m using ZumoDrive for that purpose.

Call me crazy, but I think Amazon (s AMZN) is missing a huge opportunity here and the best place to realize it is on the Palm Pre.

Let me backtrack a minute to set up this crazy scheme. When I bought my iPhone in July of 2007, 8GB seemed like overkill. I wasn’t buying much music back then so I never figured I’d have a space issue. But then I discovered Amazon with their DRM-free MP3 store. I actually hit their storefront every single day. It’s the first site I hit, in fact. Why? Because every day they offer a different MP3 album for anywhere between $1 and $4. I’ve bought more music in the last two years due to these deals than I did in the prior five. I really didn’t plan for that from a portable space perspective.

Fast-forward to today. We’ve already seen the Amazon MP3 app for the Pre. With it, you can purchase and download albums or tracks right on the device. I can’t do that today because of the way the MP3 store currently works. I have to be at a PC or Mac and use the Amazon MP3 Downloader application to get my music. But what if I didn’t want to download the music at all? Why couldn’t Amazon store it for me on their servers? Enter Amazon’s Simple Storage Service, aka: Amazon S3.

I’d love to see a combination of software and service that ties the Amazon MP3 store and S3 service together. What if that Amazon MP3 app for the Palm Pre gave you two options for your music purchase: download to device or store it on Amazon’s servers? Of course, the Pre’s media player would need to support streaming capabilities or you wouldn’t be able to actually play the music you have stored on Amazon’s servers. I suppose the other option would if the mobile Amazon application could connect and play the music. That’s not too far-fetched, assuming the application will allow for music previews before you buy. The playback function is likely already there.

The use of S3 with applications isn’t new. JungleDisk is a cross-platform backup client app that remotely stores your data on Amazon’s S3 servers. Using JungleDisk as an example, you can see that the cost of using S3 isn’t astronomical. You pay for what you use. In the case of JungleDisk it’s 15 cents per GB of storage per month while data transfers range between 10 cents and 17 cents per GB uploaded or downloaded.

While costs will vary based on usage and storage, I figure that this streaming model wouldn’t be much in my case, maybe two or three bucks a month. Heck, Amazon could even add 10 cents per track at the point of purchase and include storage and streaming services. There’s a few ways they could go with this.

The Pre gives them a good proving ground for this. It’s not an iPhone, for starters, and that’s important because there’s simply no way Apple (s AAPL) would allow such an app on their phones. It’s just too competitive with what they currently do or potentially plan to do.

Palm and Amazon: If you’re listening, your best chance to really put the “web” in webOS is here now. Well not quite… it’s here on June 6th, but you get my point.

40 Responses to “Amazon Has a Huge Opportunity on Palm’s Pre”

  1. I am REALLY hoping Rhapsody works with the Pre — especially if it allows streaming right from their Rhapsody’s website. From what I hear that would require Adobe Flash. But I also understand that Flash is expected to be written for WebOS. I see this as the best option. No need to buy song by song. And no need to store the mp3 files. Whether that works or not might be a deal breaker for me. I LOVE Rhapsody and server based storage and music subscription services are the way music buying is headed. Why buy song by song and take up memory when Rhapsody has just about any song you could ever want (aside from Digital holdouts like the Beatles, Led Zep, AC/DC, etc. but you can’t find them on ITunes either).

  2. if you’re that strapped for space, can’t you just delete the mp3s you don’t need on your phone, and re-download them again later from amazon? amazon does let you download purchased albums as much as you want. in other words, they already store it on their server–they just don’t stream it.

  3. bulls96

    Forget the S3 service. Thats not gonna take off in the next few years.

    Just give the Pre the ability to play their “Video on Demand” videos and they make themselves an instant competitor to the iPhone and iTunes.

  4. Griffon

    One of the real shortcomings of the CDMA design is that the phone can not do data and voice at the same time. So any time you get a call your data connection get’s truncated this can create a lot of issues with cloud storage.

    • Good catch David. That was a lack of paying attention to the calendar on my part. I’ve sort of lost track of the days in May due to lost time at work after my Dad’s passing on April 30. My bad… fixed!

  5. Janusz

    Ive been reading your posts guys but i dont understand why anyone would want to keep buing mp3 if you can stream newest music FREE from Pandora. I dont even have time anymore to search for music and then orginize it… I dont thing that a storage will be a problem in future.

    • David

      Pandora is a good option too and guess what it’s a built-in client on the Pre too. Amazon and Pandora, pretty strong. BTW, there will be over 7GB avail for use.

    • Julius Hibbert, M.D.

      I like Pandora too but It’s not the same as having your own music library. You don’t have much control over the music with Pandora. I often like to rewind and repeat songs or I may be in the mood for a specific song. Pandora isn’t that much different from listening to a regular radio station.

  6. What if this went one step further?

    What if Amazon automatically cached/synced 4-6 GB of your most-listened-to/favorite music in the Pre’s built-in storage, with the rest being streamed on demand…

    Make it seamless for the user!

    As an aside :) Amazon S3 supports WebDAV, right? Most high-end/Nseries Symbian phones support WebDAV, right? Are you thinking what I’m thinking?

  7. oneAwake

    How do we know Amazon won’t allow you to store music in the cloud and stream it as well? To my understanding webOS allows you to store “files” in the cloud, it was said the Amazon app will allow an online file as well as native, Amazon is one of the app’s which need access to the browser. We just have to wait and see.

    • Thanks Tom. I double-checked the link and it’s working for me. What likely threw you is that it’s a link to our prior coverage of ZumoDrive, so if you scroll down, you’ll see a few posts referencing that coverage. ;)

  8. Ramfrancisuk

    Hi Everyone

    Why not take one or two albums off each week and replace them with two new ones.

    To me, it seems easy. The phone seems to work very well with PC Syncing.

    And then wait for Amazon to take up Kevin’s idea.


  9. jamie

    @ted- pre looks pretty amazing. i am definitely disappointed about the memory- not that it only had 8gb, but that it doesn’t have a micro sd slot. you can get an 8gb micro sd off newegg for less than $20! but, it’s really not a huge issue for me as i don’t have a huge music library and am looking forward to all the other things the pre has to offer.
    as for the service- at&t is just not an option for me. i had cingular for a year and lost service everywhere. i also could not make a call even when showing a steady 3 bars. even when i did make a call, people complained that they could not hear me. there were just so many issues. the service was awful. i went with sprint and all those problems were resolved. i’ve since come to like vzw as well. but in terms of price, you can not beat sprint. $70 for 450 minutes and unlimited everything- as simple as that. and only $60 with the referral plan. add on a company discount and it’s a great deal. i’d be paying around another $30 with at&t or vzw- not worth it! so… my contract is up next month, but it looks like i’ll stick with sprint if the pre is everything we’ve been promised!

  10. Snakes

    Ted AT&T have some of the worst coverage and even worse 3G support. Also the Iphone plan is $50 more expensive for the everything plan. Over a two year contract you would spend about $1000 more on the iphone. Those are a couple factors people think about when making the plunge to the Iphone. It’s just not worth it when you could get something like a Pre on sprint

  11. Ted T.

    Or you could get a 16 or 32GB iPhone 3.0 (for the same price as the Pre — including/excluding the rebate). Why someone would want a Pre instead of an iPhone 3.0 is a total mystery to me, unless you thing that Sprint is way better than AT&T — but all the surveys of wireless customers I see say otherwise.

    • slappy

      Exactly. Why not get the new iPhone since 3.0 pretty much adds the basics that were missing, including some secret sauces that we’re bound to discover soon.

    • Brian

      Yeah, I would certainly get an iphone… but AT&T coverage in my area sucks pretty bad, also the additional monthly cost is a turn-off.

    • I think overall the Pre UI is better than the iphones and of course its new, and many people like the new. IMHO iphone 3.0 upgrades aren’t substantial enough. I’m also not sure how important this GB war really is. I and many others have 50 or more gigs of music. An iphone of any type will not hold that, so I have to make choices of what will be stored on the device. So I just find the cheapest device (8 GB) and just manage special playlist for it. Who can really listen to 30 days of music. Storage/stream services would be cool if they had a flat rate based on size.

    • Dan Palmer

      Well for me, the reasons are: (1) I really don’t like Apple’s DRM policies and that my wife’s iPhone can’t get its music from any computer but hers (2) I don’t care for iTunes in general (3) I subscribe to Rhapsody To Go, which doesn’t work on the iPod (it won’t work on the Pre either, so my 30gb Zen Vision will continue to be my music player).

      I think the 8gb is a mistake, but not a deal breaker.

    • Wow! I hadn’t heard that the next generation iPhone is going to have a physical keyboard and true multitasking. Obviously, it must be adding both of those if there are no obvious reasons why someone would prefer a Pre…

  12. Snakes

    If your iphone is 8gb you only have about half of that available for music storage. The OS and other apps take a good chunk of that. Hopefully the Pre gives you a lot more to work with out of the 8gb. Does the pre have removable storage?

    • Uh… no, at least not for everyone does your thesis apply. ;) Apps on my 8GB iPhone take up around 400MB. I have nearly 7GB of music on the device, which is far more than half of the available storage. In any case, the Pre does not support removable storage, which is partly why I’m looking for streaming options.

    • Brian

      Ahh, I see now that it’s a web-based client. Sounds like a real possibility. Though, if one is out of 3G range, I imagine this won’t work.

      And, to the poster below, there is no removable storage on the Pre. I’m really hoping the Pre-2 will have that ability.

    • If you’re out of 3G coverage, but still have 1xRTT (as you will likely have whenever you have _any_ signal), you can still stream audio, but at a lower quality. For times when you’re unconnected (gasp!), there’s still the internal storage.

  13. I’m with you. I checked this week and I broke the 56GB mark for music, yikes! Today, I store everything on an external hard drive connected to my PC, and load up to 8GB of music on my BlackBerry Bold’s 8GB microSD card.

  14. Guys, all you need is Orb ( and you can stream all your media on your home machine to any other connected device. I use Orb all the time to listen to anything from our 70GB music collection on my little old Treo, now a Centro. It’ll even stream video and photos, downrezzing on-the-fly to whatever bandwidth the sending and receiving devices have available. 3G video isn’t bad, but music is perfect. Try it out…that’s what I plan to do when I get my Pre.

    • Thanks Craig. We’ve covered Orb many times in the past few years here and it’s definitely a workable option. However, it requires that you leave a PC on all the time if you want to use it. That’s not an ideal constraint that everyone’s willing to accept.

    • Kevin, really? I thought we figured out years ago that, beyond all the automated updates that tend to happen during non-use times, it was more harmful to the PC’s longevity to start it up and turn it off frequently than to just leave it running.

      We have 4 PCs running all the time, each doing different things & serving (ha!) different purposes. But then I realize we’re a bit out of the norm. ;-)

    • Craig, I’m not worried about the reliability of a PC due to turning it on and off. My personal concern is the wasted electricity when not really in use. Why pay for hardware and the 7×24 power when Amazon can foot that bill? It’s just a personal preference for me. You’re points are well-taken that Orb is a valid option.

    • Oh, I totally agree with you that having Amazon stream one’s library would be fantastic. For those of us with legacy collections and/or if Amazon doesn’t do that, I think a low-power music server would be ideal (e.g., an EeeBox).