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Amazon's Web Services Take a Half Step

E-commerce pioneer and online stalwart Amazon has taken a step towards moving its Web services implementation to the next level with a new beta.

However according to at least one industry analyst, the move isn't far enough to fully realize the potential of Web services.

In an e-mail to its developer community, Amazon invited participants to join in a wide beta test of its Amazon Web Services (AWS) 4.0 platform. The Seattle-based firm described the new AWS as including, "a jam-packed set of new features and development functionality designed to help you be more innovative and profitable with what you build on top of the Amazon platform."

AWS 4.0 offers users more access to Amazon's products, images and reviews than before. It also adds some new search functionality as well as supporting Amazon's wish list search capability. Amazon said it has also tried with this better to make it easier for developer to learn how to use AWS with built-in help, more documentation and code samples.

The Amazon shopping cart in AWS 4.0 now permits application users to add items to the Amazon Save for Later cart. Shopping cart abandonment continues to be a major problem for the e-commerce industry. A recent DoubleClick study showed that 57 percent of all carts are abandoned by shoppers and only 26.5 percent of them will come back to actually make a purchase.

Despite the list of new features in AWS 4.0 touted by Amazon, at least one analyst believes that none of them are particularly significant from a Web Services point of view.

"No single updated feature stands out as being particularly significant," ZapThink Senior Analyst Jason Bloomberg told internetnews.com. "The primary differences between Amazon's Web Services (AWS) 4 and 3 is that version 4 has more complete functionality and returns more complete data."

Bloomberg doesn't believe the release went as far as Web Services ultimately need to go to reach their full potential. So for now, the ZapThink analyst said he feels Amazon's use of Web Services is, "still in the early stages, and much of their potential is yet to be realized."

"AWS 4 is still entirely request-reply in structure, which is adequate for supporting Web interfaces, but would not be sufficient or incorporating into more general business processes, or more broadly, into Service-Oriented Architectures, which require asynchronous Services," Bloomberg explained.

Web Services may still prove to be a windfall for online retailers, though for Amazon at least the benefits will be indirect. Amazon's Web Services offering is currently available for free simply by signing up and downloading the API's. eBay, which has also entered the Web Services game however currently, has a tiered pricing system based on usage.

Amazon can use all the help it can get in its battle to dominate the e-commerce landscape. It recently reported lower than expected earnings and revenues. However, it has now also become a player in China with the recent acquisition of Joyo that countries largest online retailer of books, music, videos and DVDs.