Amazon Cloud Drive and Cloud Player music services announced

Amazon surprised the tech world last night by announcing Cloud Drive and Cloud Player services for streaming music to various platforms. Amazon has stolen a march on Apple after we heard the other day that Apple was supposedly planning to launch a similar service very soon (given their purchase of streaming service Lala happened more than a year ago.) Well, Amazon has gotten here first.

The Amazon service will allow you to upload your existing music collection, as well as tracks purchased through Apple’s iTunes or any other medium to the “Cloud Locker.” All Amazon account holders will automatically be given 5GB of online storage which can be increased to 20GB either by paying for more storage or buying an MP3 album from Amazon. Music purchased through Amazon will be automatically added to the Cloud Locker and will not count towards your storage quota. Music can be stored as either MP3 or AAC and in its original bitrate; so there will be no loss in quality. The service also allows you to store other media such as photographs, videos and documents.

The Cloud Player, the playback part of the service, is available either through a desktop web browser such as Safari, Chrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer, or as part of the Amazon MP3 application on Android phones.

Amazon Cloud Drive seems to be accessible internationally while Cloud Player is currently blocked outside the US. (This is likely due to licensing issues and may take a long time to resolve -- they've barely expanded MP3 in the last 3 years.)

Amazon does not appear to be allowing access through iPhone, iPod touch or iPad Safari at the moment. (Some readers are saying you can hit the download link to stream the music via Safari's built-in QuickTime X player, just like any MP3 link but we can't confirm that yet -- let us know in comments!). Whether Amazon chooses to properly open up access to Mobile Safari, or whether they'll try to include Cloud Player into an iOS app is unknown. Even if Amazon makes an app, would Apple allow it into the App Store or would it be seen as a direct competitor to iTunes?

What do you think of the Amazon Cloud Locker? Do you think Apple will announce a service as flexible as this? Let us know in the comments!

[Amazon PR]

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Reader comments

Amazon Cloud Drive and Cloud Player music services announced


Well, if this doesn't help confirm the rumors that Apple is preparing to update MobileMe to offer a "Music Locker" that you can store music online and listen from your iPod touch, iPad, iPhone, etc. then nothing short of Steve Jobs announcing it on a stage will confirm. Apple is not going to want to be outdone. Doesn't matter if Amazon releases an app or not, MobileMe needs to offer similar storage/streaming options. My hope is that Apple will take it a step further, and that you can just go to the iPod app on your iDevice, and locally stored music appears side by side with cloud stored music.
Now that I think about it? Maybe I DO want an Amazon app. Then, I could have 20 GB of lesser listened to music on the Amazon app, an additional (20?) GB of music I listen to more often on MobileMe, then only what I REALLY have to have at all times (very little) stored on my iPhone. Assuming Apple meets the 20 GB amount as well, I think that between them and Amazon, I would have all of my music in the cloud. Then could save the physical storage for videos and apps.

I agree. This is just like Amazon dropping the Kindle price at the same time the Nook price was dropped. It's like Amazon has insider information and KNOWS this is coming from Apple.

Maybe, but a cloud based service has been rumored for a long time with Apple. Remember, if someone makes a move like this, its because they heard Apple was doing it first.

I hope not. I have to think that Apple follows the KISS philosophy. Keep It Simple, Stupid. I would think it would be incorporated into the iPod app.

Dropbox FTW.... not sure what Amazon is trying to do here, there are multiple services that provide this that actually support multiple devices.

Dropbox is a good alternative. I think the key here is the integration with a music download service. I just bought a free album, and clicked "Save to my Cloud Player"
Transaction over. I can listen on any browser now, and via the workaround, on my iPhone. I think that Amazon jumping into the Android camp is going to be HUGE, and will push Apple that much more. I think Amazon is going to essentially give a more Apple like experience to the android users.

Dropbox is awesome, but this Amazon service (which can be used for things other than music as well with Cloud Drive) costs 50% less than Dropbox. It's on par with the cost of automated backup services at $1/GB.

I'm sure Apple will come out with something that will have less storage, and cost more money, and we will be told it is because it is sooooo much more "magical" than what Amazon did, and people will start dumping on Amazon, when in fact you can get more than enough storage for FREE from them. I mean, really, who needs more than 5GB? It takes all of like 5 minutes to sync your phone, and you can't possible need more than that for one day. I carry around about 300 songs in playlists at all times, and can change them out at night. I really don't understand some people's need to have 5000 songs on their phone. Do you use your phone as a radio all day? Even so, at 8 hours play time, and about 4 minutes per song give-or-take, that's only 120 songs. But, as I said, I'm sure Apple will come out with something that costs more for less, and people will be fall over themselves to sign up for it.

The point is not having to decide what your going to listen to 8-12 hours before - decide at the moment, based on what's happening then. And that requires access to all your music. Otherwise you might as well use Pandora.

Except you can only get 20GB of storage for existing collections, which is barely more than what the current base iPhone 4 has

Broken record here. As long as wireless data is bandwidth capped, these types of services will be limited in their usefulness. Cloud storage for documents is amenable though.
Heavy bandwidth stuff like streaming audio and video, not so great. Nice as a tertiary backup though.

Bandwidth caps aren't that big of an issue, and i'm rarely away a wifi connection, only when i travel and shop. I see what you are saying, but think about the quality over 3g as it ditches in and out of good and less good covered areas. Regardless the 3g use would be limited to travel and shopping, and if you aren't using wifi the rest of the time you will like it.

It will be an instant hit for non-iTunes users and maybe more if the revamped MobileMe misses the mark.

I don't want a cloud service that differentiates my media experience from what I have locally on my iPhone/iPad, etc from what is in the cloud. I want to be able to go to a single point on my phone (iTunes on the iDevices) and see a list of cloud items and local items. That's where Apple will differentiate itself from Amazon by bringing a more seamless experience to iOS users.

I have a droid and installed the app and the switch between the cloud and my local music is just a tab in the app. How more integrated to you want that to be? I actually like that I know what's where so I can easily choose if I want cloud or local music.

That works! Good to know. I understand wanting to know, but I think there could be a visual indicator in one "tab" that shows all side by side.

Even with all these cloud storage services like this (dropbox included) I would much rather have everything synced to my phone instead. Streaming audio relies on several things:
A) You have enough data in your plan to stream this music (looks at AT&T's 2GB crappy package)
B) You have a strong reliable connection (So you aren't waiting 30 seconds between each song)
C) You have enough battery life (Streaming needs power for somewhere)
I just like my info RIGHT HERE RIGHT NOW.

Never fly, eh? Try relying on cloud storage during an international flight. Ever took a cruise? You can buy WiFi, but holy cow is it ever expensive.

I just use my home NAS device (Goflex Home) and its remote access app for iPhone lets me stream music from my own personal cloud. Instead of having 5GB or 20GB you can get 1-3 TB.

I don't see any advantages to this. They are offering 5GB storage? My iphone has 32GB, and I don't have to rely on any internet connection to listen to a song or see a picture.
Every time some moron comes out with a new name for something that already exists, everybody gets excited as thought it was some new exciting invention. "Cloud" is just a fancy way of saying online storage. Nothing new. Only advantage is not having to store/sync files across all your devices.

5GB free or 20GB paid music cloud backup? No that's a joke! My music collection exceeded 100GB years ago!

You can pay to increase storage at $1/GB, which is actually pretty good.
My annoyance with the service is that it doesn't recognize lossless formats including FLAC and Apple Lossless.

"Whether Amazon chooses to properly open up access to Mobile Safari..."
Is that like saying, "whether Apple chooses to properly allow Flash Player access in Mobile Safari..."

I signed up, bought a $5 album and got a free upgrade to 20 gigs. The interface works on the iPad but it doesn't play anything. If they come out with an iPhone and iPad app I would use it. The same album on iTunes is $10.99.

Amazon probably did submit an iOS app and Apple is probably putting approval/rejection on the back-burner to keep it in limbo so they don't have to approve it but doesn't need to let the info go around that it was rejected just yet.

Of nearly as much interest is the music industry's response. (from )
"We are disappointed that the locker service that Amazon is proposing is unlicensed by Sony Music," a Sony spokeswoman told the Journal for tonight's report.
No mention of what such a license should be, or why Amazon or we should have to pay again to stream to ourselves music we have already purchased, but it suggests the labels will try to contest these services, somehow.

I will use it for backup only. No need to stream stuff, but the ability to play from any computer is nice to know it's there.

Yeah. Broken record on the cloud streaming. What problem is the cloud streaming trying to solve or what capability is it trying to enable? One can carry up to 160 GB of music on an iPod device basically everywhere you go. The cloud streaming of your music improves on that how? Not sure. To top it off, it'll cost you in bandwidth and cost you in battery life if you're unwired. Not sure why people think it is a great idea.
Cloud storage on the other hand I can understand. Theoretically, cloud storage with great sync services will let you have automatic backups and let one be able to work on stuff from a multitude of devices. Man, there are not any new ideas.

Let me know when they make a 160 GB iPhone. Until then, I'll embrace cloud streaming in any way, shape or form. Amazon, Apple, whatever. I like carrying my phone with me - alone. I chose the iPhone so I could do away with having to carry a phone AND an iPod with me. Cloud streaming - or whatever you want to call it - is a solid option.

That's your prerogative. You could stream your entire collection from your home computer today. Terabytes if you wanted to.
But the usage model as a mainstream model? I don't think so. I really can't see it as long as it costs about $0.02 per MB for data (or about $1 for 50 MB). For video, essentially multiply by 10. The bandwidth caps and tiers are just going to drive quality down. Maybe 5 years from now. More like 10.

I think the cloud option solves a problem with iDevices and some other cheaper mobile devices that don't include swappable storage options.

This doesn't seem to be a problem affecting a lot of people to me. In fact, I think people who regularly swap microSD cards is pretty small. Negligibly small. People replace to get bigger sizes, yes. But regularly swap cards? I think that's a pretty small population.
I tried the swapping SD cards with my digital camera awhile back. This is a usage scenario where I think swapping may be done a lot more. It just wasn't that much fun at all. It was just simpler to download the images to my computer and reformat. Getting a bigger card made this process easier.

I too don't get the benefit of the Amazon cloud. I can store more on my iPhone. If I need access to the rest of my music collection and have a data connection available, I use the Plex app to stream from my home computer. The cloud option limits file type (mp3 or AAC only) and would only hold 2% of my music collection. I buy from Amazon all the time, but CDs - never download. I will never do so until they download as lossless. That is what I want to see improved from Apple and Amazon - give us the same quality in a download as you get on the CD.

Laughing at all the negativity in here. If the exact same service had been rolled out by Apple and integrated with iOS devies instead of Android, the same folks would be screaming "this changes everything...again."

Laughing at the iOS hater on an iOS blog. This solution is hardly elegant, expensive, and limited in functionality. If you want to discuss the topic of the article, feel free to argue the other side, but leave your ad hominems at home.

The music playing is actually quite elegant on my wife's Android phone, but unusuably cumbersome on my iPhone. Ars points out this is not a technical one, but a policy one, though whether Amazon's or Apple's is anybody's guess at this point.

This is great. Hopefully it will push apple to be truly "post PC" as Mr. Jobs said.
I don't know why I should have to physically connect my mobile device to my computer in order to transfer files. Sureley it would be easier to do this over wi-fi or 3/4G?
My main grip with the cloud services is the upload process. I would like to use a cloud based back-up, but I have 460GB of photos, 320GB music and 5 GB of documents. To back-up via the internet it would take weeks.
If someone comes out with a serveice wher they FedEx you a 1TB external drive, you copy the data locally and then FedEx it back for them to insert int the cloud array I would use it. My data would be online in much less time, and then the resulting uploads would be minor synchs.
I use both iOS and Android devices. I see Amazon's move as having a large impact on the experience factor for Android. Will we see an Amazon Android tablet with a PixelQi screen soon (Kindle 4 or 5)?

"If someone comes out with a serveice wher they FedEx you a 1TB external drive, you copy the data locally and then FedEx it back for them to insert int the cloud array I would use it."
at a cost,yes. I use crashplan, and they have just the service you describe.

Gauntlet dropped. Clearly, this is the first of what's likely to be many services. Apple will have one otherwise why build a huge new data center. Google, probably. HP is a candidate too given that they probably have more data centers than any of the above and purchased Melodio a while back and need something to drive Beats audio on their devices. It feels like the 1849 California Gold Rush all over again.

Let's not forget Apple's purchase of LaLa back in December of 2009. Wouldn't be surprised to see something similar coming from them this summer

I'm just glad somebody else did it. Apple use to delay products until perfection and thats what have been keeping them behind competition, thought that use to give customer 100% satisfaction. Knowing Apple, I'd say they will strike back with some extra features than what they initially where thinking to offer.

Amazon Cloud Drive and Cloud Player can be enjoyed on the iPhone:

  1. Download wifi2hifi app
  2. Open Cloud Player
  3. Stream the audio from the computer to the iPhone

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