Battle of the media ecosystems: Amazon, Apple, Google and Microsoft

Four large tech ecosystems are currently vying for our attention -- and for our dollars. How well are they succeeding?

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Other features

There are other media-related services and products beyond music, books, gaming, shopping and video. In this section we look each ecosystem's grab-bag.

Amazon
Amazon logo

We live in a world in which many people are no longer content to only consume media; they want to create as well. Amazon has entered that world in big way. It offers considerable services to the large and growing universe of self-publishers with CreateSpace, Kindle Direct Publishing and Advantage, a suite of services that help individuals create, distribute and market books.

Amazon is branching out beyond that. CreateSpace also offers tools to help musicians create their own music CDs, which can then be sold on Amazon.com. And musicians can also distribute their music as MP3s on Amazon's music service.

Apple
Apple logo

iCloud is the umbrella term Apple uses to describe its online storage and synchronization services. While iCloud offers some upfront features like an email address and the ability to track equipment and friends with Find My iPhone and Find My Friends, respectively, the main feature of iCloud is that it is invisible. With every change made on one device, iCloud silently transfers the data to your other devices, keeping all devices up to date.

iCloud also allows music, video, books and app purchases from iTunes, the App Store and iBookstore on one device to be immediately available for download on other Apple devices. There is an option to have these purchases automatically downloaded to other authorized devices.

Further, iCloud syncs your position in your content -- like books, audiobooks, videos and podcasts -- across your authorized devices. iCloud also works with iBooks to sync bookmarks, notes and other text, automatically.

Like other online services, iCloud has its share of hiccups and is very much a work in progress. While Apple apps like Pages sync through iCloud without issue, many developers are having trouble implementing syncing into their apps the way iCloud is currently designed to work.

Google
Google logo

Google has developed a separate platform called Chrome OS. Derived from the company's Chrome browser, Chrome OS serves as a lightweight operating system for users who rely primarily on cloud-based services.

The most common products that use the Chrome OS are Chromebooks -- cloud-centric laptops such as the popular $249 Samsung Chromebook and the high-end touch-enabled Chromebook Pixel. These products utilize Web-based applications, many of which can be found in Google's Chrome Web Store.

Chromebook
The most common products that use the Chrome OS are Chromebooks -- cloud-centric laptops such as the high-end touch-enabled Chromebook Pixel.

Numerous games and other entertainment-oriented offerings are also available in that store; content from the Google Play book, music and magazine collections is accessible on the devices as well. However, because of its dependence on the Web, it doesn't offer a platform for games that demand a system-based component (which means most popular PC-based titles).

Microsoft
MS logo

Although Skype is currently a VoIP and video communications tool, at some point it could play an important role in Microsoft's entertainment ecosystem, most likely in gameplay. Microsoft has been hiring engineers to port Skype to the Xbox 360 and, although Microsoft isn't providing any details about that port, it wouldn't be a stretch to imagine that Skype could be used for video chat-enabled gaming, or as a way to find gaming partners.

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