Amazon has just unveiled its ambitious music streaming service, Cloud Player, a music player which allows users to upload songs to Amazon’s servers and play them from any computer or Android smartphone.
The online retailer launched two new offerings late Monday: Amazon Cloud Drive and Amazon Cloud Player. The first lets you upload and store files like music, videos and photos on Amazon’s servers, which you can get to from a Web browser on a Mac or PC.
The second lets you play songs you’ve uploaded on your computer or on a smartphone that runs Google’s Android operating software. The “cloud” in the services’ names refers to the practice of storing content online and streaming it to a computer over the Internet.
“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,” said the Amazon vice-president of music and movies, Bill Carr.
“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,” he added.
The new Amazon Cloud Player service adds a new “Save to Amazon Cloud Drive” button for saving MP3s to the cloud, as well as an option to upload music from a hard drive to a user’s Cloud Drive.
Customers start with 5GB of storage space – equivalent to just over 1,000 songs – and those who buy an MP3 album from the Amazon store will be upgraded to the larger 20GB service. It’s $1 per GB after that.
Cloud Player comes in two flavors, an app for the web and an Android app counterpart. Both players allow users to upload their music, create playlists and organize their music. And because it’s a cloud-based platform, users can access their music and settings from any compatible computer or Android device.
The Seattle-based company, which already runs an online storage service for companies called Amazon S3, decided to roll out a consumer cloud service to make it easier for customers to access digital content no matter where they are, Amazon music director Craig Pape said.
The offerings could also benefit Amazon’s bottom line: The company realized customers were hesitant to purchase MP3s at work because they didn’t want them tied to their office computer, Pape said, so Cloud Drive and Cloud Player may drive more impulse music shopping.
Amazon said it has sidestepped legal uncertainties about allowing users to upload music from their computer – some of which may have been downloaded illegally – by being the equivalent of any other storage device, such as an external hard drive.
The most comparable service to Cloud Drive is probably Grooveshark, which also lets you upload your music, though Amazon has several major advantages in its MP3 store, its longstanding payment system and its stronger brand recognition.
Amazon’s move is beating Google Inc. and Apple Inc., which are believed to be working on similar services that would allow consumers to access their content when away from their home computer.
However, Amazon’s Cloud Player will certainly face a stiff challenge when they launch their own streaming music services, especially given Google’s control over Android and Apple’s control over iPhone and iTunes.