Amazon to launch Cloud Drive, online 'locker' service

Consumer Reports News: March 29, 2011 10:31 AM

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Amazon.com is readying a is now offering a service called Cloud Drive that lets people upload and store music in cloud-based lockers, making it available to nearly any Web-connected device. [Correction: The service is available now.]

It isn't yet clear if Amazon's service will receive opposition from the music labels: They have traditionally fought new business models that utilize music from their artists without compensation. But Amazon believes that its service, which requires users to upload songs, is no different from backing up copies of music on a hard drive.

Amazon's Cloud Drive can be used to store music, photos, and videos. Users can access the media they store using Cloud Player, which is accessible via computer or Android tablets and cell phones. Initially, Amazon is providing new users with 5GB of free Cloud Drive storage--about 125 albums worth of music. A promotion will bump it to 20GB if you buy an Amazon MP3 album. You can also buy additional storage.

Once the music is stored in Cloud Drive, you can create playlists, stream, or download music to any computer or Android smart phone with the Amazon MP3 player app. An app for Apple iPhones and iPods is not yet available.

[Update] One potential downside: If you have a fixed data plan, such as one from AT&T, streaming music can eat up your allocated data allowance. And keep in mind that you should always keep local backups as well, so you can always have access to your files, whether you're online or offline.

Currently, only tracks in the MP3 or AAC formats can be uploaded to the service. It doesn't support files that contain Digital Rights Management (DRM) anti-copy restrictions. [Update] AAC is the format used by Apple iTunes; most music purchased through iTunes within the last two years or so is DRM-free.

Clearly, the market for cloud-based music services is heating up. In addition to current music-locker services such as MP3tunes.com, Google, Apple, and Spotify.com have all reportedly been negotiating with music labels to get new services launched. According to reports, both Apple and Google are working on systems that automatically makes all the music a user owns available for streaming; Amazon's service automatically uploads only music that is bought on Amazon.com.

Do you think the concept of being able to access all your music from almost anywhere, on multiple devices, is appealing? And perhaps more important, would the availability of new cloud-based music lockers change the amount of music you'd purchase? Let us know.

James K. Willcox


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