Amazon's 'Cloud' casts shadow over music rivals
Amazon has sneaked ahead of arch rivals Apple and Google by becoming the first major internet company to unveil a music streaming service -- allowing people to store their music online.
The service will also allow users to listen to the tracks on any computer or smartphone.
So-called 'cloud music', where music libraries are stored in cyberspace rather than on computer hard drives, is the new holy grail of the digital music industry. Yesterday Amazon released Cloud Player to its American customers in a move that has taken much of the music blogosphere by surprise.
Numerous smaller companies have already released their own start-up cloud players in what is still a niche yet rapidly growing market. But Amazon's offering is the first time that one of the major tech goliaths has jumped into the business. Both Google and Apple are thought to be developing their own cloud players.
Cloud music players are often described as 'digital lockers' where listeners can place all the music they own on to a remote server. The music can then be accessed anywhere in the world with a fast internet connection.
Amazon's service, which is not yet available to Irish or British customers, starts by giving subscribers 5GB of free storage space, enough to hold 1,000 songs. Those who purchase an album through the company's digital music store will be given a further 20GB free for the first year and will then be expected to pay $20 (€14.20) a year to continue using the service.
Given the ongoing hostility between Amazon and Apple -- the two companies are currently engaged in a legal spat over who owns the phrase 'App Store' -- iPhones will not be able to sign up to the Amazon cloud player.
Music fans might find it somewhat galling to pay a company to store their music, but according to Mike Butcher, European editor of the TechCrunch blog, it won't be long before everyone is listening to music this way.
"Most of us have growing libraries of digital music. But if our hard drives crash or our computers are stolen we risk losing everything. Storing your music on a cloud means you'll always be able to access it," he said. (© Independent News Service)