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Amazon NOW offers Cloud Music!

Discussion in 'More News from Your Google TV News Team' started by Rickaren, Mar 29, 2011.

  1. Rickaren

    Rickaren New Member Staff Member

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    Tuesday, March 29, 2011

    Amazon preempts Apple with cloud-based music service for Web and Android


    By AppleInsider Staff
    03/29/2011




    Amazon upped the ante in its fierce rivalry with Apple over control of the digital music market, with the introduction of a Cloud Drive digital locker and a Cloud Player service that offers streaming music via the Web and Android devices.

    The Seattle, Wash.-based online retail giant unveiled the new cloud services late Monday. The services are available for U.S. customers only.


    “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,” Bill Carr, Amazon’s vice president of movies and music at Amazon, said in a statement. “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.”

    The Amazon Cloud Drive service offers customers 5GB of free online storage, with premium accounts expandable up to 1000GB. Additionally, customers who purchase an MP3 album will be entitled to 20GB of storage for one year. New Amazon MP3 store purchases can be automatically added to Cloud Drive without counting toward total storage space.

    The service accepts music purchased from iTunes, provided that the files are DRM-free. Apple removed DRM from iTunes music purchases in 2009.


    Amazon Cloud Player is available either via the Web or on devices running Google's Android mobile operating system. The web player does not, however, support Apple's Mobile Safari on iOS devices.

    [​IMG]


    Amazon's partnership with Google Android reflects an uneasy alliance against Apple, which established an early lead in the digital music and smartphone markets. Last week, the online retailer launched "Appstore for Android," a digital download service that will compete with both Apple's App Store and Google's Marketplace. A day before Amazon launched the service, Apple sued Amazon to protect its "App Store" trademark.

    [​IMG]


    Google is also rumored to be working on its own digital song locker and music store service.

    For its part, Apple has expressed interest in moving toward a streaming media solution, but has reportedly been held up in negotiations with record labels. In late 2009, the company purchased streaming music service LaLa, stoking speculation that Apple was preparing for iTunes in the cloud. An Apple-branded version of LaLa failed to materialize and the Cupertino, Calif., iPod maker shuttered the service in May 2010.

    Apple transitioned the Apple TV to a streaming model when it introduced a $99 redesigned version of the set top box. The device launched alongside a new $.99 TV show rental option.

    Recent rumors have suggested that a "major revamp" of Apple's iOS slated for this fall will add significant cloud-based services.


    Apple has been busy putting the infrastructure into place for cloud services, investing more than $1 billion in a 500,000 square-foot data center that will support iTunes and MobileMe services. The server farm has experienced delays, however, and is expected to open this spring.

     
  2. Rickaren

    Rickaren New Member Staff Member

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    Published at 1:55 PM on March 29, 2011
    By George Howard


    Assessing Amazon's New Cloud Player


    [​IMG]
    Amazon unveiled their digital locker today. Anyone with an Amazon.com account can currently upload 5GB of material to their “Cloud Drive.” Photos, documents, music or videos can be slurped off your computer and stored on Amazon’s servers.
    Once uploaded you can access this content from any computer, and, for music at least, via phones running Android operating systems (no iPhone/iPad access for obvious competitive reasons).


    The idea of storage in the cloud is by no means a new one. For documents, Google docs is the undisputed leader in terms of cloud-based storage/access. Flickr and many other services provide cloud-based solutions for photos (ultimately, Facebook is the dominant photo storage site, when you think about it). In terms of personal videos (i.e. home movies, etc.) YouTube, Vimeo and others provide a fine solution for most people.
    However, music, and to a lesser-degree movies and TV shows, have resisted easy cloud-based solutions. The reason has to do with copyright law. Owners of the copyright to music and movies/TV shows have the exclusive right to reproduce and distribute those works; leveraging and exploiting these rights is how (historically) content owners have made money.


    For Amazon’s service, video is sort of a non-starter for anything other than home movies, because you’re limited to uploading files under 2GB in size; no TV shows or theatrical movies are going to be anywhere near that small.
    No, this is a music play, and it’s interesting to see how Amazon is handling it.
    While other digital locker services have tried to negotiate deals with the content owners to allow customers to upload music they have previously purchased, and to access it from multiple devices (computers/phones), no one has gained any real traction because of the above rights issues.


    Amazon apparently does not have deals in place with all of the content owners either, but what Amazon does have is massive leverage with these content owners. Amazon can theoretically say something along the lines of, “Make a deal with us for our cloud-based storage service or forget about us selling/featuring your products for sale.” Potential anti-trust issues aside, it’s clear to see that Amazon is not your average cloud-based start-up having to cave to content owners’ (often draconian) demands.
    Given this, it’s all the more disappointing that, at least in its initial iteration, Amazon’s Cloud Drive and Cloud Player are so lame.


    The Cloud Drive works sort of as you’d suspect: you identify the file type, then browse your hard drive and start the upload process. Amazon promises that music purchased from their site doesn’t count against your storage space, but the two albums I uploaded that I had bought from Amazonmp3.com did in fact lower my storage amount.
    Even more frustrating, you can’t highlight an entire folder of music and upload; you have to go within your folder hierarchy to the file level, and then highlight all the tracks to upload. This is a long way from the lamented (and purchased by Apple) LaLa.com uploader that would automatically scan your hard drive and match songs on its server with those on your hard drive, and then upload those songs it couldn’t match. The upload process is not terribly speedy; it took me about seven minutes to upload The Decemberists’ The King Is Dead on a residential high-speed connection.


    After the upload, you can go to the browser-based “Cloud Player” and take a trip back to about 1999 in terms of user-interface design. It reminds me of Hotmail. All of your tracks are lumped in a window with no album graphics (perhaps they’ve not seen iTunes’ or Spotify’s UI). You can sort by song title, album or Artist, and you can create playlists, but it’s all sort of an exercise in tedium; no UX niceties such as drag-and-drop exist.
    Playing music is intuitive, but again, it’s about as bare-boned as you can get—there’s not even an option to open a mini player, so you’re stuck looking at a big ugly UI while your music plays.


    None of this bodes terribly well in terms of customer adoption, but what truly shows how removed Amazon is from customers’ wants and expectations lies in their (and others) questionable belief that such a cloud-based digital locker service for music is even needed or wanted at this point.
    In an era of constant connectivity, and with multiple services providing access to pretty much every piece of recorded music that a customer could want, why is there a need to “own” your music at all; let alone upload it from your hard drive to the “cloud.”
    If, for instance, you have Steely Dan on your hard drive, and you want to listen to Steely Dan on your device or on someone else’s computer, there are myriad ways you can do that—Rdio, Rhapsody, Spotify, eMusic, Napster, etc.—for a monthly fee that will likely be lower than the monthly fee associated with uploading any decent sized library of music to Amazon’s cloud (Amazon gives you 5GB for free, but if you have a music library of 100GB it’ll cost you $100/year to store it on Amazon’s servers).


    If you’re like 99% of the population and you just want to hear some music while you’re eating, cooking, reading, working, etc., you’ll dial up Pandora on your computer or phone and let them curate the experience for you…for free.


    If Amazon had made this service free (and perhaps they’ll do so for Prime subscribers), and added in some curation elements (which, they’re…ahem…sort of known for) there might be a value proposition here.


    Absent these things, and in an era where streaming music is rapidly replacing the idea of owning music there just doesn’t seem to be much point.
     
  3. Rickaren

    Rickaren New Member Staff Member

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    March 31, 2011

    Music labels look for rights violations in Amazon cloud




    Amazon's new unlicensed and widely written about cloud service was closely examined by the major record companies yesterday. Within each label there were debates about how to respond.



    The first order of business was to determine whether Amazon violated copyright law or the terms of the company's current licensing agreements with the labels, music insiders told CNET.


    Amazon spoke to some of the labels and Hollywood studios recently and informed them--some as late as March 24--that on Monday, it planned to launch Cloud Drive, a service that enables users to upload copies of their music, e-books, videos, and other digital media to Amazon's servers, the sources said. The company also rolled out the Cloud Player, which is used to listen to the uploaded music with the help of Web-connected devices. Amazon told the entertainment companies that it was prepared to unveil the Player and Drive without licenses.


    The launch of Amazon's cloud service has received so much attention because storing digital media on third-party servers instead of a computer hard drive is supposed to be the next evolution of digital distribution. For more than a year, the music sector has waited for Apple and Google to unveil their own digital shelves. With all the attention on those companies, however, Amazon catapulted into the lead.


    How Amazon's case is resolved could help determine the ground rules for cloud media storage. The case could also determine who has the inside track in providing digital lockers.

    Amazon may have made a Jobs-esque move to help the company jump past rivals, but Amazon isn't Apple. The iTunes store has dominated digital music for nearly a decade and has the weight to push the labels' limits sometimes. In this case, there are some at the record companies that aren't impressed. They want to lawyer up, right now.

    The legal issues are one thing, but some executives are steamed about the way Amazon waited until just a few days before launching the service to inform them of their plans.

    Still, most of the people who spoke with CNET said they want to see what Amazon does next before deciding how to respond. Amazon said in its initial meetings with the entertainment companies that it would eventually negotiate to obtain licenses. The company, founded by CEO Jeff Bezos in 1994, has made good on the promises and managers there have begun talks with the labels.

    So, Amazon negotiates while the company's cloud service is up and running. Meanwhile Apple, Google, and Spotify appear to have put themselves at a disadvantage by waiting to roll out their cloud offerings until they obtained licenses. Both companies are said to be nearly ready. Yet, if Amazon is allowed to continue to operate without a contract for too long, the labels risk proving that in digital media, it's better to ask for forgiveness than permission.

    While there appears to be more doves than hawks at the labels, that didn't stop their lawyers from poring over Amazon's service in search of any potential rights violations, sources said. Here's some of what they were looking for:

    • Is Amazon making unauthorized copies? When a user stores music on Amazon's servers, the company must make that exact copy is available for the user to stream. The way the music industry sees it, if someone uploaded a copy of Bob Dylan's "Like A Rolling Stone," and Amazon streamed the same recording but a different copy of the recording, then Amazon would violate the label's rights.

    According to Donald Bell, who reviewed Amazon's new service for CNET, Amazon did indeed stream back the same recordings he uploaded. He knows this in part because he uploaded songs from a little-known band whose recordings Amazon could not possibly have possessed.

    The issue of making unauthorized recordings came up when Viacom, parent company of "MTV" and "Comedy Central" sued Google and YouTube in 2007 for copyright violations. Viacom claimed Google violated the law in part because it re-encoded the video clips users posted to the site, thus creating a new copy. Last year, a federal judge disagreed and Google won. The case is on appeal.

    • Has Amazon properly secured the music? If Amazon's users too easily share music with others then the company may be accused of encouraging copyright violations. Sony Music is believed to have had security concerns at least initially, sources said.


    • Has Amazon broken any pre-existing licensing agreements? None of the sources would discuss specifics about the terms of Amazon's current music-licensing deals, but one source did say there are still unanswered questions in this area.



    Amazon said this week it doesn't need licenses for the service it launched Monday and it appears the company went to great lengths to avoid committing any obvious infractions. But that's why Amazon's Cloud Drive is more limited than similar offers.

    Instead of scanning computer hard drives to determine what songs users owned--the way now shuttered Lala once did--and then making a single master copy of a song available to the users who owned it, the company must store possibly millions of copies of the exact same recording. Any digital storage expert will tell you that this is expensive and inefficient.



    Since Amazon said that it doesn't need licenses for what it currently offers, the talks under way are likely about adding features.

    Don't expect any quick answers from Amazon or the labels on the licensing issue. Talks can drag out months or even years. The people who I expect to respond well before that come from Apple, Google and Spotify.

     
  4. thewilliams1

    thewilliams1 New Member

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    I think the cloud drive is a good move. True, the esthetics and UI leaves a lot to want, but so what?

    I had a lot of music (I DJ and rip Vinyl to Digital) on a hard drive that took a dump without warning. I had most of it backed up on cd's, but it's a pain to rip it all back onto another drive, which will eventually take a dump as well, rinse and repeat.

    Well, this morning I was able to download a very rare and VERY missed album directly to my phone AND upload to the cloud... now, whenever I get a new device, that album will be there waiting for me...

    except for the Logitech Reveu, since Amazon Cloud Player doesn't recognize GTV's Chrome.
     

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