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]