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Cloud Drive: Amazon Launches its Online Music Locker and Cloud Storage Service

Amazon just launched its rumored online music locker project. Dubbed the Amazon Cloud Drive, the service will actually do more than just store your music. Besides supporting music – which is clearly the main focus here – the 5GB of free storage space on Amazon’s servers that come with every Cloud Drive account can also be used for documents, pictures and videos. Users who purchase one full MP3 album on Amazon before the end of the year get 15GB of additional free storage for a total of 20GB. Extra storage on top of the 5/20GB free tier costs $50 per year per additional 50GB of storage space. The Cloud Drive is currently only available for Amazon customers in the United States.

New music purchases from Amazon are automatically saved to your Cloud Drive. To upload your existing music collection, you have to install the Amazon MP3 uploader, which is based on Adobe AIR and is compatible with Macs and PCs. Besides a web-based music player, Amazon also offers an Android app for streaming your music from the online locker while you are on the go.

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The Cloud Player, which runs in your browser, allows you to play back any music you uploaded. You can also create new playlists. You can not, however, edit any of the information attached to your files. So if Amazon can’t identify an album or artist based on the MP3 tags, it will simply organize it under “Unknown Album” or “Unknown Artis” and won’t allow you to change the name.

Overall, the Cloud Player is pretty straightforward, though limited. There is no advanced playlists feature, for example, or the ability to organize your collection by anything else but song title, album title, artist, genre and time.

To get started, you need to install the Cloud Drive software on your machine at home and start uploading your music. The files are stored – with their original bitrate intact – on Amazon’s S3 service. The service will accept any DRM-free MP3 file.

Putting Pressure on Apple and Google

The Cloud Player feels quite similar to Lala, the streaming music and music locker service that Apple acquired last year. Most pundits expect Apple to launch a music locker for its Mobile Me service soon. So far, however, Apple has not made any announcements about this yet. The company’s new data center in North Carolina, however, is likely the central piece of infrastructure that Apple needs to complete before it can offer a service that will compete with Amazon’s new offering.

It’s worth noting that other companies, including MP3Tunes, have been offering a similar music locker service for a while already and that besides Apple, Google, too, is rumored to be working on a similar service.

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