Look Up! In the Cloud! It's Amazon!
The latest cloud-based content initiative comes from Amazon. Its Cloud Player will enable users to store their music libraries on the web and access them from broadband-connected computers or Android devices.
"Now," says Bill Carr, Amazon's veep for movies and music, "whether at work, home, or on the go, customers can buy music from Amazon MP3, store it in the cloud and play it anywhere."
The system consists of the Cloud Drive, "your personal disk drive in the coud," which uploads music files at their original bitrate to Amazon servers. Then the Cloud Player for Web accesses and plays the files on any computer running Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari for Mac (take that, Steve Jobs), or Chrome (take that, Google). There is also a Cloud Player for Android phone or tablet with full Amazon MP3 Store functionality.
Either MP3 or AAC files will work. That includes iTunes purchases, according to The Guardian, a British newspaper, though this was otherwise unconfirmed at presstime. The system automatically scans iTunes and Windows Media libraries. You can also upload photos, videos, and documents for access on a browser.
For starters, you get 5GB of free storage, though to qualify you have to be an Amazon account holder. Buy an Amazon MP3 album (typically priced at about 10 bucks or less) and that goes to 20GB. You can buy additional storage for a buck per gigabyte up to 1000GB, or one terabyte. Amazon MP3 purchases do not count against your storage quota.
Apple and Google, planning similar ventures, aren't going to be happy about this.
And what about the ever-litigious music industry? "We don't need a license to store music," Amazon's director of music told The Guardian. "The functionality is the same as an external hard drive."
There may be trouble ahead. The New York Times reports: "Several executives at major labels expressed concern about such a service and whether it would violate the terms of their current licensing agreements with the company. They agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity because their agreements with Amazon are confidential."