Remember the good old days when coming up with a Windows desktop application was the baseline for any online service? Heck, even Apple did it with iTunes. Well, those days are over. And while Windows 8.x and Windows Phone are generally well-serviced by mobile apps for popular services, those apps too often significantly lag behind similar apps on other platforms. And the worst offender, perhaps, is Amazon.
As Amazon expanded on its Kindle eBook ecosystem by purchasing Audible and making serious moves into online music (Amazon Cloud Player/Amazon MP3) and TV shows and movies (Amazon Instant Video), I figured we finally had a viable set of digital media solutions that weren't tied to the needs of a particular hardware platform. Unlike Apple's reprehensible lock-in strategy on iOS, Amazon's services worked everywhere, mostly, or soon would.
I noted this situation last year in Amazon Spreads Its Ecosystem, that only Amazon could still win when you buy some other company's product. So rallying around these solutions seemed to make sense.
Well, it's a year later. And after a lot of waiting, I'm getting tired of Amazon's inability to make its otherwise decent online services available to Windows users. This company is almost as anti-Windows as is Apple, from what I can see, and by making what apps it does make available on Windows in lackluster form, it's in some ways even more insidious.
Here are some examples of what I'm talking about. (To be clear, when I write "Windows" here, I mean Windows 8.x "Metro," not the Windows desktop.)
Kindle. Amazon makes a Kindle mobile app available on just about every platform, including Windows and Windows Phone. Sadly, these apps are terrible. You can't sideload PDF or MOBI files, they don't offer Whispersync with Audible, and the navigation is second-rate. For example, on the Windows Phone version of this woeful app, you can view on-device books by recent, title, or author, but if you wish to find something in your own cloud collection, there are only title and author views, which is miserable for those of us with huge collections. And search? You're joking, surely. There's no search.
Audible. Amazon also makes an Audible mobile app for just about every platform out there, again including Windows and Windows Phone. I've probably used the Windows Phone version of this app more than just about anyone, and I can report that it's the buggiest, most unreliable app I've ever used. I routinely bookmark as I walk because it so easily forgets the current listening location, and it was only after using the iOS and Android versions of this app for a while this fall that I came to understand its Whispersync limitations on Windows. This app is shamefully bad.
Cloud Player. I originally latched on to Amazon Cloud Player as the ideal way to get my existing digital music collection in the cloud. There's just one problem: Amazon has never created a client for Windows or Windows Phone. And even more oddly, until a few months ago, the firm didn't even have a desktop client: Instead, it expected Windows users to use a web-based client. And then they finally released a Windows app. For the desktop. Sigh.
Instant Video. Amazon's video services—Instant Video, which offers purchasing and renting of video content, and Prime Instant Video, which is a Netflix-like service—are likewise not available to Windows or Windows Phone 8. There is a desktop client, naturally. But if you're on a Kindle Fire HDX or iPad, you can even download a few movies or TV shows at a time from the Prime service. Must be nice.
Basically, what we have here are two crucial services that offer completely inadequate Windows and Windows Phone apps, and two that don't offer any apps at all. And that, folks, is completely unacceptable.
PS: That promo image at the top is from Amazon's page about how you can watch Instant Video anywhere. Yes, that's how they view PC users: 12-inch 4:3 screens, wired mice, and a web cam from 1999.