Can Amazon.com knock Apple off its digital music perch? The Seattle online retailer sure is trying to make inroads against its larger rival, and the company’s latest effort is Cloud Drive. The new digital music storage service allows users to store their personal collections in the cloud, and then access the songs (or videos for that matter) from various computing devices: Android phones, Android tablets, Macs or PCs. (Sorry, no iPhones or iPads).

Managing personal music and video collections online has become a pain, and Cloud Drive could be a game changer. Reports are already circulating that Amazon’s service beats Apple and Google to the punch in cloud-based music storage services.

“Our customers have told us they don’t want to download music to their work computers or phones because they find it hard to move music around to different devices,” Amazon.com’s Bill Carr said. “Now, whether at work, home, or on the go, customers can buy music from Amazon MP3, store it in the cloud and play it anywhere.”

Previously: Amazon vs. Apple: Emergence of the next great tech rivalry?

Edward Baig at USA Today — who has been testing the service for the past six days — notes that the new service pretty much works as advertised despite a few occasional glitches. Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal quotes a Sony Music executive who said the record label is disappointed that the new service from Amazon uses unlicensed Sony Music.

Here’s how it works.

Amazon.com customers are given 5 GB of Cloud Drive storage for free — enough to store about 1,000 songs in the cloud. Then, once a customer buys an Amazon MP3 album, they are upgraded to 20 GB of free space. (You can also buy more storage, see chart below).

Dubbed a digital locker, the new storage service essentially allows music lovers to store their favorite tunes in a centralized spot and then access them on various devices. That’s been the holy grail for many in the music business for some time, and a number of players have made efforts to get there over the years.

The new Cloud Drive service not only could have implications for Apple — Amazon.com’s main rival — but also smaller services like Rhapsody which helped popularize music streaming.

Unlike Rhapsody, the tunes stored in Cloud Drive are actually “owned” by the user.

Seattle startup HomePipe Networks, which just raised $1.1 million, also is operating in the space. Seattle-based RealNetworks is preparing to launch its Unifi cloud-based personal media management service. Google is also reportedly testing its Google Music service for storing and playing digital tracks.

In addition to Cloud Drive, Amazon also announced Amazon Cloud Player for Web  and Amazon Cloud Player for Android. The services work together to allow customers to listen to their music collections on various devices.

Pricing on Cloud Drive could get expensive as more music is added

 

Comments

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=696846462 Brandon Carson

    Just bought the new Duran Duran and stored it to my personal locker. Easy to do, two clicks and it’s done. Now I’m playing the album on my Droid Incredible. This is what I’d like to do with my iTunes collection! Amazon has a potential game-changer here. I’ll now consider buying more music from them.

  • Dennis Hamilton

    I switched over to Amazon MP3 for my on-line music purchases around the time that Microsoft abandoned Plays-for-Sure and pulled the plug on the MSN Music such that my previous purchases became unplayable once I upgraded away from the remaining licensed computer.

    I park all of my MP3s on my Windows Home Server, where a terabyte is a *lot* less expensive that $1,000 per year.

    The advantage of Cloud Drive for me would be as a secondary off-site backup (unless I become more diligent about cycling backups of the WHS to my safety-deposit box, a habit that is not habitual just yet), especially if I can download copies from Cloud Drive at my pleasure.

    Ability to listen on portable devices is not so important in this household, although anything reasonable could compete with Zune PC as a means for transfering MP3s to my Windows Phone for an occasional traveling listen. This is not a big requirement and I don’t normally carry the stereo headset for the phone when I leave the house. An interesting option but not a requirement in my case. I suspect others will have much stronger interest, especially as Zune players become scarce and folks tire of the music-subscription silos and prefer to have assured portability of music track paid for just once.

    In short, I’m rooting for Cloud Drive because we need more neutrals and Amazon MP3 is my favorite source. (And because of Zune PC integration with Windows Media Player, such as it is, I can put purchased MP3s on my Windows Phone without ever subscribing to Zune Pass. (OK, I like how Zune PC manages podcasts, and it would matter more if I ever listened to them. Another missing habit, this one I’m not sure I need.)

  • Dennis Hamilton

    Wowza. I just read the press release you linked to. I must try this. A couple of further highlights:

    ” New Amazon MP3 purchases saved directly to Cloud Drive are stored for free and do not count against a customer’s storage quota.”
    and the general quota goes to 20GB for free once any Amazon MP3 purchase occurs.

    Cloud Player for the Web includes download capability, so that will work. I can get music onto my Windows Phone by downloading to where Windows Media Player and Zune PC will see them. If they’re smart, the current Amazon MP3 downloader for purchases should have the option of *also* putting a copy onto Cloud Drive or the downloader should be made to work from Cloud Drive. I must explore this.

    And then there’s the “Store More than Music” feature.

    I agree with Dare Obasanjo. Once an API is published for this, life will get very interesting in this space. It’s also not difficult to conceive of this as an alternative to SkyDrive (and even Google Docs, though I figure support through Kindle/AmazonTablet is more likely) down the road.

    This looks like classic complements warfare and it certainly gives an upside-the-head slap to Apple’s bizarre royalty system on content-delivery apps.

  • Dennis Hamilton

    Update: The free upgrade to the 20GB Plan on purchase of one album (I did it for $2.99 on one of the specials available for this occasion) is a 1-year free trial.

    Also, if you switch to having purchases go to Cloud Drive, you can still use Cloud Player to download individual albums or tracks to your PC or Mac or Linus system. It will use the Amazon MP3 downloader, which means it integrates the download neatly into Windows Media Player or iTunes and that means also into Zune PC and further downloadable to non-Android phones and players.

    Smooooth. I am definitely liking this.

    • Dennis Hamilton

      Oops. I meant Linux, of course.

      Also, the Amazon MP3 purchases do *not* count in your Cloud Drive quota, so they won’t leave you pushed into the 20GB bracket when the free-trial year is over with. It is only the other content that you upload that is subject to your quota.

      And finally, when the free-trial is over, you are not automatically subscribed to the 20GB bracket. You have to opt in.

      As I said, more and more to like about this, including the polish with which they have pulled it off.

  • Anonymous

    This is so smart of Amazon. I’m an Apple loyalist but I started buying music from Amazon when Apple was so stingy with their usage rights. Now it’s because Amazon typically beats them on price, and their process is just as easy as buying from iTunes. It’s good to see them meeting an unmet need. I’ll definitely use Cloud Drive.

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