Amazon.com beats Apple and Google to launching a cloud-based music service, offering 5GB of free storage. Legal questions loom about what consumers can play on what device.
Amazon.com March 29 launched
a Web-based music locker that is decidedly friendly toward Google's Android
operating system while ignoring Apple's iOS.
The digital music locker,
which lets users store music in Amazon's bank of servers and stream over the Web on any PC, Mac,
Android phone or Android tablet, comprises Amazon Cloud Drive
, Amazon Cloud Player for Web
and Amazon Cloud Player for
Amazon is not supporting any Apple iOS device,
including the iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. Indeed, Amazon's move is aimed at
striking a blow to Apple's successful iPod and iTunes dynasty, which has
dominated digital music for the last decade.
With such an entrenched
legacy of letting consumers tether their MP3 tunes between Macs and iPods,
Apple has moved more cautiously to providing a music service hosted in the cloud.
Google, too, is rumored to be working on a Web music service centered around
However, Apple and Google
want to let users stream music anywhere, while Amazon requires users to upload
music each time they port it to a new device. This would cause some to question
whether this is a true cloud service.
Amazon.com customers get 5GB
of storage to upload their music library to Amazon Cloud Drive and save any new
Amazon MP3 purchases directly to their Amazon Cloud Drive for free. Cloud Drive customers can also store photos, videos and documents, with
storage plans starting at $20 a year for 20GB.
purchase an Amazon MP3 album will be upgraded to 20GB of Cloud Drive space. Music files are stored in AAC or MP3
formats in Amazon's Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), and each file is
uploaded to Cloud Drive in its original bit rate.
Customers may listen to
their music from their PC or Mac's Web browser via Cloud Player for Web. The
device supports Microsoft Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari for
Mac and Google Chrome.
Cloud Player for Android,
which includes the Amazon MP3 Store and the mobile version of Cloud Player, is
now bundled into the new version of the Amazon MP3 App, allowing music to play
music stored on their Cloud Drive and music stored locally on their device.
The key to Amazon's music
locker is music portability, a departure from the legacy of using thumb drives
and cables to cart music around from one device to the next, Bill Carr, vice
president of Movies and Music at Amazon, said in a statement
"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," 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."
One overarching issue is the
: What right do Amazon, Apple and Google have to enable music in
the cloud when music publishers expect to be compensated each time a song is
ported to a new MP3 player, smartphone or tablet?
Sony Music Entertainment,
for example, was one of the first to speak out about the service: "We are
disappointed that the locker service that Amazon is proposing is unlicensed by
Sony Music," the company said.
Amazon views itself as a
storage provider that isn't beholden to such licensing.