Amazon just released their new Cloud Player service to go alongside their Cloud Drive and MP3 Store. What this means is that we’ve all now got access to a free 5GB of space to not only hold our music but stream it anywhere, with iTunes integration, playlists, album art and all. Word on the net is that Google and Apple are heading in the same direction, but if Amazon’s quick entry can grab enough early adopters, it could change the game. Today we’re going to take a look at this new service to see if it really offers enough to make an impact in the notoriously complicated, finicky, and unpredictable world of digital music.
First, let’s explain a little bit about exactly what Cloud Player can do. The free service gives you 5GB of storage space as part of the Amazon Cloud Drive. Cloud Drive alone is all you need to just store files, and it’s Cloud Player which makes it worth the effort for music. You’ve got your choice between a web-based player or an Android app. This article will focus on the web based portion, as it applies to all readers.
To get your 5GB claimed, just head over to Amazon and log in/sign up (as of this post, the signing up is available for US customers only).
For starters, you’re a little bit limited in what will work with the Cloud Player. It’ll work with DRM-free MP3 or AAC files, no Vorbis, FLAC, etc. If you’ve got DRMed music, you’re out of luck. But then again, you probably already know that.
The “proper” way to work with this service is to use the Amazon MP3 Uploader, which is an Adobe Air application. It’s not the only way, however, which we’ll cover in a moment. For those who wish to use the uploader, you’ll be asked to install it when setting up your Cloud Player account.
It will scan your computer for music on startup, but you do have the option to stop the scan and manually select the music of your choice, or optionally import from software such as iTunes. Unfortunately, it will attempt to scan your drive again the next time you launch the uploader. And the next. And the next…
If you can’t or won’t use the MP3 Uploader, there’s always the plain old Cloud Drive uploader. Just log into the Amazon Cloud Drive just as you would the Cloud Player. Upload the files to your music folder or subfolder of your choice.
And they’ll be available in the Cloud Player web interface. Speaking of which…
Cloud Player Web Interface
Now that you’ve got you music up, its time to do something with it. On the left you’ve got a navigation panel similar to many local music player applications where you can view your collection by Artist, Genre, etc. Cloud Player even handles the fetching of album art (if it can).
Playlists are fully supported as well, and items are added to the playlist by dragging them from any browsing view and dropping onto the playlist name.
The Non-Free Experience
If you wish to go beyond the free service, you can purchase new tunes from the MP3 Store or some additional capacity to hold it all. Amazon worked in some pretty tempting bonuses as well. For example, if you purchase any MP3 album from their web store, the album is automatically added to your Cloud Drive and your drive capacity is expanded to 20GB for free (for a year).
If you’re interested in expanding your storage space without necessarily buying an album, the prices are as follows (as of the time of this writing)
5 GB FREE
20 GB $20.00 / year
50 GB $50.00 / year
100 GB $100.00 / year
200 GB $200.00 / year
500 GB $500.00 / year
1000 GB $1,000.00 / year
Until Google and Apple launch their theoretical competitors, there’s little basis for comparison for the combined Cloud Drive and Cloud Player. This author is still getting used to the idea of Amazon as a leading edge tech company instead of just an online retailer, but to date their cloud offerings have been generally well received. These two new services are certainly impressive in their simplicity, and both do precisely the job they were designed for and seem to do it well. It would be nice to see some external APIs become available to allow things like local client integration or drive mapping, but that may be in the works. For now, Cloud Player seems to be an extremely simple and capable tool. Often when writing software reviews, we try the application, write about it, and move on. This time, I think I’ll really use this in my daily life. At least until something better comes along.