Is Your Music Free or in Prison?
Most digital music providers have been looking at an easier Web 2.0 solution than having to copy all your tracks over to your desktop, notebook, phone and tablet for your continued enjoyment wherever you are. Surely, it is easier for them all to be in one place, saving a lot of storage and pulled to your device as needed?
Well, while there are some big questions that the cloud solution brings up, that's what Amazon is now offering with Cloud Drive and Cloud Player, a service and app that offers 5GB of storage for free (buy an album and you get upgraded to 20GB) and a means to play your music on nearly any device. Songs purchased from Amazon don't count against your storage, so effectively take up none of that space. The service can support either MP3 (.mp3) or ACC (.mp3) files, nothing else, so currently DRM-ed tunes are out.
Doing the Deed
You can upload your existing music files up to Cloud Drive, or buy new tracks from Amazon and send them to the Cloud Drive. Just sign in with your existing Amazon account and you're good to go. Uploading is done in the background and the service comes with folders for documents, music, pictures and video.
Users can create playlists, organize their music and search for songs. Thumbnails appear when playing in the Web player and the Android player offers a smart front end.
Android users get a smart app to play with
You then use the Cloud Player for Web on your computer, or Cloud Player for Android on your compatible phone or tablet and start playing those tunes. Note that, if you load the Web cloud player on your iOS device, hoping to play your tunes on an iPhone, the page doesn't load completely -- so while you can see your files, you have to click Download to get them playing in a web QuickTime window, which is rather limiting. The site says iOS devices are not currently supported.
This could be something Amazon may fix soon, or is leaving as a two-finger salute to iTunes users. Given that songs are generally a little cheaper on Amazon, this could be an issue for price-sensitive buyers, but you can still download music from Amazon to iTunes and then copy it over to your iOS device. To be fair, Apple diehards will happily be waiting for the iPhone maker's own service launching soon with the revamped MobileMe.
Amazon's Web Cloud Player offers an in-browser music organizer
A Cloudy Future
Amazon, having recently opened its Android App Store, is clearly taking a big interest in all things mobile. This service could easily become the predomiant one for Android users looking for a credible iTunes alternative and offer an end-around on services such as last.fm and Spotify.
All it needs to succeed is enough users willing to leave their content hanging in the cloud, but users can still download all their files, so there is only a risk of data loss to those foolhardy enough to ignore making regular backups.
Playing streaming songs should pose no problem over a Wi-Fi network, but isn't something that you'd like to try beyond a strong 3G signal, if that's possible. So, perhaps having, at least, your favorite on-the-go music download to mobile is still the better option anyway. But, for now, get ready for a whole new services war to erupt as every market player offers to store and play all your content.