Amazon Cloud Player Forces Apple to Make Up Ground (UPDATE: Workaround for iOS Playback)

Amazon Cloud Player Forces Apple to Make Up Ground (UPDATE: Workaround for iOS Playback)

Late tonight, Amazon took the wraps off of Amazon Cloud Drive and Cloud Player, free services for network storage and playback of MP3s and DRM-free iTunes audio files. Just as Ed predicted. Anyone with an Amazon account can sign up for 5 GB of space, and then you just upload your music library for access through any Flash-based browser or a brand-new Android app. From now forward, any Amazon MP3 store purchase will automatically be added to your Cloud Drive and won’t count against your storage quota. Larger capacities are available at $1 per GB per year starting at 20 GB.

In almost every regard, it’s exactly like Lala, the totally amazing cloud music service that Apple bought almost a year and a half ago and then promptly shut down. The only difference is that Lala also offered 10-cent song purchases for cloud-only use (as opposed to downloaded for offline use). This makes it all the more ridiculous that Apple still doesn’t have a cloud music service released. We’ve been hearing for some time that the iTunes Locker will arrive any day to offer something comparable, but Amazon’s move shows just how much Apple has slow-played its move toward streaming.

It would actually be fascinating to see Amazon release an iOS client for Cloud Player to really hold Apple’s feet to the fire. My over-riding concern with what I’ve heard about iTunes Locker is that Apple wouldn’t even match Lala’s old ability to offer songs from your entire music library and would instead offer access only to iTunes purchases. With Amazon offering something this simple and successful, Apple will have to go all out. This is why real competition is a very good thing for Apple users — it forces the company to leap over its own bar, not just hit it. Moreover, it will mean pushing ahead even if terms with record labels aren’t perfectly favorable.

– Sent in by everyone in my Twitter feed.

UPDATE: I’ve just discovered that if you visit your Cloud Drive through Mobile Safari, it is possible to play back audio on an iPhone, but only one track at a time through downloads. Hardly a useable solution, but an interesting trick nonetheless.

Now, far more useful is that you can also play back video loaded into the Cloud Drive on an iPhone, so long as it’s in a format Safari supports (preferably H.264). Amazon isn’t making a big deal out of video yet, but there is definite potential here. Especially if the geniuses at VLC or Plex figure out how to pull down a stream from your Cloud Drive…

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  • A Name

    Yeah, hurry up Apple.

  • A Name

    Yeah, hurry up Apple.

  • iHate_Is_Back

    5 gigs for free!!!!! Amazon i love you. I’m so there woot woot.

    Well i just tried it out. Considering I had an amazon account it took me all of a minute to get a track uploaded. I’m listening to the track as i write this and thus far I’m impressed. Sound quality is excellent it sounds like I’m listening to my music offline. No buffering problems or anything. I wish you could create sub folders and use them to sort playlists. Besides that so far no gripes. Thanks for the heads up Mortensen.

  • iHate_Is_Back

    UPDATE:
    I just noticed there’s a create playlist option on the far left. Nice

  • Amen!

    Actually, you can create a subfolder for your musics on Amazon Cloud, I just did.

  • jnjnjn2

    Whats the value? I can use iDisk in the same way. But I wont because upload speeds are slow (thats the same for most internet users) and it doesn’t add something to my music listening experience because I have all the music on all my devices and its just a sync away.

    Video on a cloud disk is ridiculous because of the slow uploads speeds and ‘use only once’ reality.

    So to much focus on cloud storage is nonsense and thats why iOS5 and Lion will include wireless sync for media files via ad-hoc WiFi networks. This could even mean backup services and ‘local cloud storage’ on TimeMachine devices for iOS devices.
    This eliminates the ultra slow internet upload speed problem and keeps all devices in sync with almost minimal fuss.

    The cloud is not useful for lots of (large) media files until internet access is symmetrical for most and 50Mb/s (up and down). But even then its useless to shuttle data up and down when you don’t need to.

    J.

  • ggore

    I just don’t see the point. I have most all my music on my nano, iPad and iPhone, available to me at any time, not to mention on all my various computers. Let’s see what happens when 150 million people try to stream their music all at one time in the very small areas of the country that actually have the sufficient bandwidth to handle all this traffic, then make an assessment on how well it works.

  • rmt99e

    I hope apple uses Ping to associate something like this. I bet they do. $5 on it.

  • 300AShareMakesMeSmile

    What’s so great about this service? I already have an Orb account and since I have a Mac at home that runs 24/7, I always have my music and videos available by logging into Orb and it doesn’t cost anything with as much storage as I have on my Mac. Is Amazon Cloud Drive merely an alternative for people that don’t have a computer or media server always running at home? I’m definitely going to try Amazon’s cloud service to see how well it works since I have an Amazon account.

    So, just because Amazon beat Apple to the punch by a few weeks or so, does this mean that Amazon’s cloud service is going to be better or used by more people. I’m sure that any of the owners of 200 million credit card accounts on iTunes will be able to use Apple’s coming cloud service. Apple will hardly be left in the dust by being a couple of weeks late to the game.

  • Limo Hire

    great news..

  • Dilbert Asebed

    competition is good.

  • Dilbert A

    your post makes no sense.

    you saying “so what they were first”, “so what they giving people an alternative”.

    it’s news.

    why not say , “so what the president was shot, Regan & Lincoln where shot before.”

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  • Pancakedc

    I want Apple to release Mobile Me for free!!!

  • Amen!

    You got that right!

  • voato

    Why this Service will fail….. I’m not sure where Amazon are going with this service. I can’t remember the last time I actually *bought* an MP3 from anywhere. The future of music is clearly subscription based services like Spotify and other cloud based applications. Why do I need an Amazon Cloud Player when most of the music I already own fits neatly on generic MP3 player :-). Doomed to failure from day 1 IMHO. If you’re interested ( and before it disappears :-) there is a quick video of the service to make up your own mind:

    http://voato.com/tech/media/am

  • CharliK

    While this new Amazon service is impressive, I am not impressed with the hyperbolic headline, the constant comparing to Apple/Lala or the implication that Apple needs or cares to “make up ground”. It dismays me that someone like Pete, who claims to have a clue about Apple hasn’t figured out yet that Apple doesn’t do anything based on what others have done or are going to do. Case in point, there’s still no blu-ray in Macs even though ‘everyone else’ has them

  • CharliK

    Likely never happen.

    Now what might happen is that some parts are free, although perhaps very limited particularly in size. And the overall price could come down.

  • CharliK

    Ping is an offshoot of Lala’s user playlists and follow features. Both were designed to increase sales. So yeah it’s a suckers bet that Ping will be involved in whatever this is because iTunes will likely be. Because in the end, Apple wants to sell more music and they will use your cloud contents to improve Ping and Genius and try to sell you more

  • Pete Mortensen

    Um, Luca, I’m well aware Apple doesn’t do anything because someone else has done it. Lala already did this, which is one reason Apple bought them, and it’s widely known that Apple has an iTunes Locker in the works. My hope is that Apple’s entry is better because a platform agnostic competitor is already there.

  • iHate_Is_Back

    Dude your such a fan boy cool-aid pitcher and all. You’re getting 5 free gigs plus extra storage if needed for 1 dollar a gig which is rock bottom cheap. Love Apple all you want I doubt Apples offering will be as cheap as Amazons. The only way they could now beat Amazon and get away with charging more is if they baked it into their future NFC technology and baked it in well. We’ll see as other posters on here have said competition is great and we consumers win out because of it.

  • Maswind

    It is interesting to note that according to the mainstream media (CNN), Amazon went ahead and this this without any record company OK…. I smell a rather large lawsuit coming Amazon’s direction.

    Part of the delay in the iTunes locker service is Apple’s efforts to do things right and get the record companies on board before launching the service. I read that Sony has already consulted with its legal team and is preparing to file suit agaisnt Amazon regarding the streaming of music from the cloud.

    It will be interesting to see how rthis all shakes out over the next week or two.

  • Laurence Baker

    Excellent piece, Peter!

  • ElvisLives

    Maybe I am just an old curmudgeon, but for the life of me, I cannot see why anybody is excited about cloud-based MP3 streaming.

    If I want to listen to music on my Android phone I can either:

    1. Go through my entire music library on my PC, choose which 5GB worth of songs I want on the cloud. Then,
    2. Create an account for Amazon’s Cloud Player. Then,
    3. Upload 5GB of songs, and wait. And wait. And wait. Then,
    4. Install Cloud Player on my Android phone. Then,
    5. Subscribe to an expensive data plan. Then,
    6. Stream my music to my phone, start using up precious MB from my overpriced data plan, and try to not lose my Internet connection.

    Or, I can:

    1. Press play on the Android phone.

    How is this not just a time-consuming, complicated, unreliable, and potentially expensive way to do something my smart phone already does very well?

    If I am at home at my PC/laptop/tablet, I will just play the songs directly from my NAS. If I am in a car/on a plane/at work/deep in the Outback, I will just listen to all my music on my smart phone. It is always with me and holds much more than 5GB or even 20GB (with cheap micro SD cards).

    Somebody please explain the value in this proposition.

  • buxtonmarauder

    doesn’t work outside of the US..

    The file store works, but not the MP3 player

  • Erik

    Why is this guy still writing for cult of mac? I’m sure Some PC magazine would gladly take him, and we’d gladly see him leave. He’s always writing exaggerated articles about bullshit topics no one cares about.

    Stop writing About Apple, you don’t understand the company.

  • Patricia Sells Chernoff

    Agreed!! I am waiting for the value as well… well expressed concern and point!

  • Sean Murphy

    The main point of the Amazon Cloud Drive is to get more people to buy from the Amazon MP3 store.

  • Sean Murphy

    I think the real point of the Amazon Cloud Drive isn’t necessarily to get everyone to upload their music files but to get more people buying from the Amazon MP3 Store. Any new purchases from their store are automatically saved into your Cloud Drive account so you can access it from anywhere from the time of purchase. So, you don’t even need to download it to your computer, sync it to your device, etc.

    Also, if you buy a music album Amazon ups your storage capacity to 20GB for a year for free! These are pretty darn good incentives to buy from Amazon instead of Apple through iTunes. And as any users of Dropbox know having cloud based storage is a great thing. I’m sure Amazon will have an iOS app available soon (I hear it is in the approval process) and at that point Dropbox will almost be unnecessary as well (unless you use the integration in other apps). But even then I’m sure developers would code in integration for the new Amazon service.

    And think about the video streaming service they launched a few weeks ago. I’m sure eventually the two services will come closer together for full on streaming services/cloud access on all devices. The Amazon web grows ever larger.

  • Kelly Murphy Overend

    well, if this was released one week ago it would have saved me $275 dollars. Case in point: My son likes (ok, loves) a particular cartoon that is not yet out on DVD player. We are leaving for vacation in 2 weeks, and I wanted him to watch this show on the plane (make other passengers happy). Well, I had NO way to do this unless I gave him my laptop with either a: itunes installed b: watch live on nickjr. or c: watch on amazon on demand. During the flight, I want to use my laptop. I can’t let him watch on my EVO, because the battery life is about 2 hours AND the phone is expensive AND I don’t let him get his hands on it usually. Besides, even if I did let him watch on my phone I didn’t want to have to play on demand every time I want him to watch his show. There is no player on my phone that allows me to save amazon on demand UNTIL NOW. So, I bought an IPOD touch, my first apple product, just because of some stupid show!! and now, i bet i can do exactly what i wanted to do through a Droid App. Great.

  • Painless Dentistry

    So let me see if I have this right…less than 24 hours after Amazon unveils their new “cloud” duo, Apple is suddenly playing catch-up and the Amazon Cloud Player is poised to slay Goliath? Holy Land of Opposite Reality, Batman! Have you actually used the new Amazon services? If you have and you still really believe what you wrote, I cry big foul. To begin with, these are browser based services, not apps. That should have been the wooden stake in the heart of your entire construct. Other than the free 20GB upgrade that came with my first Amazon MP3 purchase (a very nice launch promo from Amazon, btw), it is a wholly unremarkable offering. It’s not pretty to look at, it’s almost as clunky to navigate as Windows Explorer and it also likes to log users off mid-song roughly every five minutes. While that’s probably a fixable bug, ultimately we are talking about a basic file storage and management add-on to the existing Amazon web sprawl. It does nothing new, different or innovative.

    I can already stream all of my iTunes music content through PlayOn or the free Boxee desktop app. My AppleTV has also been part of my home network for a number of years, giving me yet another option for easy access my media. Windows 7 even has the option of adding the iTunes mini-player to your task bar. As for portability, my Boost Mobile Blackberry doesn’t run iTunes but it does sync back and forth to it as easily as my roommate does with his iPhone. In less than five minutes I had my iTunes playlists on my Blackberry (via the free Blackberry desktop app). Heck, even cranky old Microsoft gives you more free storage in the Windows Live cloud and iTunes has been running like a charm on all of my Apple and Windows products for several years. I can’t think of the last time I heard anyone complain about not being able to play their music where and when they want to. To paraphrase ELVISLIVES spot on comment: where’s the beef?

    Let’s be honest, were it not for this product launch no one would be talking about Amazon’s MP3 service. Don’t get me wrong, I am a very happy Amazon Prime member but it doesn’t take a genius to see the reality of things here. Amazon’s full-tilt embrace of the Android platform made for some flashy press releases back in the day but the crap-filled mess that is the Android App Store hasn’t exactly turned into the cash cow some were hoping for. The cloud offerings of this week and Amazon’s recent pad-out of Prime with free access to SOME of their instant-stream video titles seem less a shot across the bow of Apple (or Netflix) and more a move by Amazon to shore up existing services and give Prime even more appeal. I don’t want to come down hard on Amazon but I’m thinking Apple isn’t feeling even a whiff of pressure from this new duo from Amazon.

  • Jedi Zamfir

    So let me see if I have this right…less than 24 hours after Amazon unveils their new “cloud” duo, Apple is suddenly playing catch-up and the Amazon Cloud Player is poised to slay Goliath? Holy Land of Opposite Reality, Batman! Have you actually used the new Amazon services? If you have and you still really believe what you wrote, I cry big foul. To begin with, these are browser based services, not apps. That should have been the wooden stake in the heart of your entire construct. Other than the free 20GB upgrade that came with my first Amazon MP3 purchase (a very nice launch promo from Amazon, btw), it is a wholly unremarkable offering. It’s not pretty to look at, it’s almost as clunky to navigate as Windows Explorer and it also likes to log users off mid-song roughly every five minutes. While that’s probably a fixable bug, ultimately we are talking about a basic file storage and management add-on to the existing Amazon web sprawl. It does nothing new, different or innovative.

    I can already stream all of my iTunes music content through PlayOn or the free Boxee desktop app. My AppleTV has also been part of my home network for a number of years, giving me yet another option for easy access my media. Windows 7 even has the option of adding the iTunes mini-player to your task bar. As for portability, my Boost Mobile Blackberry doesn’t run iTunes but it does sync back and forth to it as easily as my roommate does with his iPhone. In less than five minutes I had my iTunes playlists on my Blackberry (via the free Blackberry desktop app). Heck, even cranky old Microsoft gives you more free storage in the Windows Live cloud and iTunes has been running like a charm on all of my Apple and Windows products for several years. I can’t think of the last time I heard anyone complain about not being able to play their music where and when they want to. To paraphrase ELVISLIVES spot on comment: where’s the beef?

    Let’s be honest, were it not for this product launch no one would be talking about Amazon’s MP3 service. Don’t get me wrong, I am a very happy Amazon Prime member but it doesn’t take a genius to see the reality of things here. Amazon’s full-tilt embrace of the Android platform made for some flashy press releases back in the day but the crap-filled mess that is the Android App Store hasn’t exactly turned into the cash cow some were hoping for. The cloud offerings of this week and Amazon’s recent pad-out of Prime with free access to SOME of their instant-stream video titles seem less a shot across the bow of Apple (or Netflix) and more a move by Amazon to shore up existing services and give Prime even more appeal. I don’t want to come down hard on Amazon but I’m thinking Apple isn’t feeling even a whiff of pressure from this new duo from Amazon.

  • Halojames1

    just get the unlimited data plan

  • Halojames1

    just get the unlimited data plan

  • Josh_A

    I’m a proud apple fan, but it seems that the record labels have been pushing apple into a corner first with DRM and most recently with the restriction on how many times i can burn my music. I bought it I should be able to control it. With that said this is why I love amazon’s service. DRM free AND online storage. Its not about cloud based music for me. its about backing up my music. I have around 95 GB of music. Sure i can push that to a external drive but what if something happens to my house? Not only would i have just lost my house but i would have lost my music, and that would be just like getting kicked in the nuts on a already bad day. Offsite backup is important to me. Even better that i can listen to my backup from the cloud with no issues. As as stated earlier most server have an issue with buffering such as iDrive. I have not had one single issue with Amazon cloud with the buffering. My only complaint would be amazon, for what ever reason, doesn’t have an iphone/ipad app. almost makes me want to get an android phone, almost. :)

  • notonfb

    I have high hopes for an Apple cloud player.   I don’t like sycing my iPhone and iPod with my computer and don’t even really like running iTunes on my PC.  It might be annoying to upload an existing music library to a cloud player, but if you can just buy songs from Apple and them stream them directly from Apple without having to download them, then I think it would be easier to buy songs on a cloud them to buy them and download them to your computer, and then sync with a bunch of iOS devices.

  • Legit Filmmaker

    Who pays by the MB anymore on their cell data plan? If your cell carrier still makes you do this, then I would seriously consider switching. The Cloud offers the availability of online streaming off ALL  of your music for just $20 a year making on board drive storage obsolete. With their new system, you can now upload unlimited amounts of music. I’m a true music lover and have more than any one IPOD could ever hold. So this is extremely valuable to me.

  • Chris

    I’ve been using the Amazon Cloud music service for a couple of months now, and I really like it.  We’re a family of 4, with 2 laptops, a desktop, 2 cell phones (android), and 4 i-devices, and keeping music in sync has always been a headache.  (especially new purchases.)

    The initial problem was I wanted to try the service w/o paying for it, and I have > 5gb of music, so I had to skinny down my main library to 5gb.  Once that was done & uploaded (about 1 night), it’s been SO EASY to listen and to pickup a different playlist on a different computer or phone.  I’ve been using my droid as my primary music player, leaving my touch & shuffle behind..

    I think this service, and others like it, have a big future.

About the author

Pete Mortensen

Pete Mortensen is a design strategist for consulting firm Jump Associates and the co-author of Wired to Care: How Companies Prosper When They Create Widespread Empathy, a book and blog that are significantly more interesting than you might initially think. Pete's particular Apple avocations are both around design--interface and industrial. Follow him on Twitter!

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