Since its debut Monday night, Amazon.com’s new Cloud Drive music storage service has attracted plenty of attention. (Team GeekWire, in fact, entertained two TV news crews today that wanted to talk about its implications). Cloud Drive is a big deal, and the consumer reaction so far has been pretty positive. After all, the idea that people should be able to listen to their music collections at home (PC, Mac, etc.) or on the go (carrying an Android device) certainly clicks with some consumers. “Smooooth. I am definitely liking this,” wrote one GeekWire reader today.
But there may be some headwinds in the future.
Reuters reports that the music labels aren’t big fans of the concept:
A new Amazon.com Inc service that lets customers store songs and play them on a variety of phones and computers is facing a backlash from the music industry that could ignite a legal battle. Amazon’s Cloud Drive, announced on Tuesday, allows customers to store about 1,000 songs on the company’s Web servers for free instead of their own hard drives and play them over an Internet connection directly from Web browsers and on phones running Google Inc’s Android software. Sony Music, home to artists such as Shakira and Kings of Leon, was upset by Amazon’s decision to launch the service without new licenses for music streaming, said spokeswoman Liz Young.
Forrester analyst Mark Mulligan writes on his blog that digital locker services won’t “save” the music industry:
As logical a next step in the digital music market as locker services might be, they’re not an innovation in the music product. They’re simply giving people access to the music they have on the devices they own. Consumers simply expect this. In fact, according to Forrester’s surveys, fewer people are willing to pay for a music service that works across all their devices than they are for a standard music service. Sounds crazy right? But it shows just how much consumers expect this sort of utility as standard. Which is why Amazon’s positioning (some storage space free to all customers and then more free with album purchases) is exactly right.
Generally, CNET liked Cloud Drive but also pointed out some of its flaws:
As a music storage and management solution, Amazon’s Cloud Drive and Cloud Player are both easy to use and easy to recommend. There are some holes in the music service, such as limited format support (strictly unprotected MP3 and AAC), the somewhat dry user interface, a reliance on the Adobe Air platform, and the lack of an iOS app. If and when Apple comes out with something similar, it will likely run within iTunes, dovetail with iOS devices such as the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, and support Apple’s lossless audio format. The biggest disappointment is how Amazon handles storage of non-music files. There are dozens of services out there that are better adept at intelligently archiving and organizing your photos, documents, and videos.
The New York Times also pointed out some potential legal potholes:
Several experts in digital music say that the music locker business is still legally ambiguous. For example, though some companies let people upload their music and listen to it elsewhere without any outcry from the labels, others, like MP3tunes, have been sued by music labels. Another issue: it is impossible for Web companies to tell whether a song was bought legally or downloaded illegally. Amazon says it has sidestepped the problem, because its users would upload their songs, in MP3 or A.A.C. format, to the cloud-based service, just like backing them up on an external hard drive or a Web-based computer backup service.
The Next Web said it’s smart for Amazon.com to ignore iOS and focus on Android:
People seem shocked that there’s no native application for Cloud Player in iOS. Honestly, they shouldn’t be surprised in the least. Amazon has made a hefty investment in Android and its own services. Pairing with Apple would be a risky move at best. What it should have done, though, is provide a fully functional mobile version of the site for iPhone owners. As of yet, that hasn’t happened. If you’re an Android owner, you’re going to be pleased. The app works, and it works well. The same can be said for every major browser. I’ve not yet found a version that doesn’t work flawlessly with Cloud Player. Note that I did say modern. Don’t expect it to work well in IE6 at your office.
Ars Technica also suggests that Amazon may run into record label litigation:
We wondered aloud how Amazon managed to strike such an impressive licensing deal with the record labels, given the fact that Apple seems to still be working out the details for its own digital locker service. It turns out that Amazon hasn’t struck a deal, and seems to be hoping that the record companies will be the ones to blink.