Amazon has introduced its Cloud Drive and Cloud Player. Cloud Drive offers 5GB of online storage free, with further storage available for a fee. For example, an additional 15GB costs $20 per year, and you can have a full 1000GB for $1000 per year.
Having said that, a note in the FAQ says that:
The 5 GB free storage plan is available to all Amazon.com customers, however further upgrades to the storage plan are currently unavailable in the following countries
where the list is of countries in Europe including the UK.
The Cloud Drive looks nicely implemented except that there is no provision as far as I can tell for sharing. It is an odd omission, unless Amazon sees Cloud Drive as mainly for storing personal music and media purchases and wishes to discourage breach of copyright, so I am guessing this is the case. This does make rivals like Microsoft’s SkyDrive more interesting for general cloud storage though, particularly as you get 25GB free with SkyDrive.
So on to the Cloud Player. There are two versions, a web player that is part of Cloud Drive, and an Android player which is part of the Amazon MP3 application. My first attempt at using the web player failed – US customers only:
However, when I uploaded some MP3 files to the Cloud Drive they played fine in the Cloud Player:
I tried the Android player briefly. It worked well with MP3s already on my device, but I have not yet attempted to sign into the Cloud Drive.
There is no player for Apple iOS and when I visited the site in mobile Safari even the web player did not appear, though this may be another UK/USA issue.
Naturally Amazon is encouraging use of Cloud Drive and Cloud Player with its MP3 store. The idea is that you no longer need bother to download MP3 files. Just store them in Cloud Drive, and play them wherever you are, though download remains an option either on purchase or later from the Cloud Drive.
A few observations. Cloud Drive is a welcome feature, though it is nothing new and crippled by lack of sharing capability. Other applications built on Amazon S3 cloud storage do include the ability to share files.
Cloud Player enhances the Amazon MP3 store and I suppose is worth having, though I am sceptical about this model of music purchase. Once you have moved the focus of music storage from local drives to the cloud, and playback from the local network to cloud streaming, then a subscription model that offers everything available on the service makes more sense. This is what Spotify does successfully, though I appreciate that not all music is available on Spotify, and that some countries including the USA cannot use it.
I wonder what happens when you store an MP3 purchase in Cloud Drive? Does Amazon really store a separate copy for every user, or does it simply link to its master copy so that it appears to be in your personal space? The latter would save storage space; and the idea shows that technically it might not be difficult for Amazon to transition from a model based on individual track purchase to one based on all-you-can-hear subscription.
Agreeing this with the music labels and making financial sense of such a deal is another matter; but I hope that this new Cloud Player is a step in that direction.