Taking a Huge Bite Out of Apple’s Music Ecosystem: Amazon Brings Magical Kindle-Style Customer-Centric Convenience and Connectivity to Music with the Amazon Cloud Drive and Cloud Player

This is huge.

Depending on your point of view, you might think this has nothing to do with the Kindle. Or, if you’re like me, you may well think it has everything to do with the Kindle.

But this morning Amazon introduced a new suite of services that employ the Amazon Cloud to offer customers the same magical and revolutionary “buy anywhere, play anywhere” functionality that we Kindle readers enjoy — but in this case it is for music, audio files, and other forms of content.

Here’s a delightfully simply video that Amazon is using to explain the new service:

It is astonishingly easy to use, and let’s be very clear here: it allows Amazon a huge leapfrog ahead of Apple in offering dazzling convenience where iTunes has totally failed its music customers. As I wrote on this blog last August while reviewing the then new Kindle 3:

With respect to reading, my Kindle is the mother ship. This has been true with every Kindle I have owned, but the Kindle 3 reading experience is so terrific that I would seldom choose to read on another device. Nevertheless, there are plenty of people using the “No Kindle Required” approach with freely downloadable Kindle apps for other devices and there are even times when for one reason or another I am without my Kindle when I want to read a few pages of a Kindle book. For all of us, Amazon makes this a shockingly easy, friction-free experience. It doesn’t take a bit of work. How great a feature is this capacity to move seamlessly from one Kindle-compatible device to another?

Well, for comparison’s sake, can we discuss iTunes for a moment? Members of my immediate household own 1 iPad and 3 iPod Touch units. Each of them is connected to the same Apple iTunes account. We’ve paid the iTunes Store for hundreds of songs, perhaps thousands. We’ve spent hours saving other digital files from CDs we had purchased over the past couple of decades, strictly for our own personal use, and there are no pirated songs or files on any of our various devices and hard drives.

So why is it that my son and I can’t access each other’s iTunes songs, all paid for with the same account? And why, whenever we’re getting ready for a road trip where we might have an opportunity to listen to some music, does the preparation always seem to include a rather nudgy and painstaking process of getting the right stuff to synch up on the right devices without overwhelming storage space with free sample episodes of Friday Night Lights that I apparently made the mistake of downloading to my iTunes account in some earlier decade? And why does Apple insist on prompting me to download a new iTunes software update about every third time I log onto iTunes? And why, if I say yes, does the process slow down my 2009 iMac to a near crawl for the next 20 minutes?

Can’t this stuff be done in the background? Has Apple not heard of the cloud? My point here, of course, is not to complain about Apple so much as it is to say that, for the Kindle platform and the various Kindle apps, Amazon has nailed this stuff. And it is important, whether it comes up ten times a week or once a year.

Okay, I should lighten up. It’s not like I can expect Steve Jobs to drop everything and roll out new features just because Steve Windwalker filed a post last August about some annoying AppleFail. After all, Steve Jobs isn’t Jeff Bezos.

Okay, that’s a little over the top, and you probably know me well enough to know that I could, if pressed, go on and on here. But I won’t.

I’ll just say that it took me less than three minutes to follow the steps and set all this up this morning. I didn’t spend $20 to upgrade my Cloud Drive from 5GB to 20GB. Instead, I took advantage of a special promotion and got the 20GB upgrade when I purchased the Stones’ album Let it Bleed for $5.

And in another 30 seconds I was listening, from what used to be my iTunes library, to Bernadette Peters’ cover of the old Elvis hit Don’t.

Don’t.

Which is what you can say to your computer the next time it tells you that you need to update your iTunes software again this week.

Here are a few of the basic links:

And here’s Amazon’s press release from this morning on these new developments, and as you read it, please join me in speculating about how long it will be before Amazon releases a Kindle-branded Android tablet with access, through the cloud, to ebooks, music, audiobooks, movies and television programming, apps, games, and more:

Introducing Amazon Cloud Drive, Amazon Cloud Player for Web, and Amazon Cloud Player for Android

Buy anywhere, play anywhere and keep all your music in one place

Start with 5 GB of free Cloud Drive storageupgrade to 20 GB free with purchase of any MP3 album

SEATTLE, Mar 29, 2011 (BUSINESS WIRE) —

Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) today announced the launch of Amazon Cloud Drive (www.amazon.com/clouddrive), Amazon Cloud Player for Web (www.amazon.com/cloudplayer) and Amazon Cloud Player for Android (www.amazon.com/cloudplayerandroid). Together, these services enable customers to securely store music in the cloudand play it on any Android phone, Android tablet, Mac or PC, wherever they are. Customers can easily upload their music library to Amazon Cloud Drive and can save any new Amazon MP3 purchases directly to their Amazon Cloud Drive for free.

“We’re excited to take this leap forward in the digital experience,” said Bill Carr, vice president of Movies and Music at Amazon. “The launch of Cloud Drive, Cloud Player for Web and Cloud Player for Android eliminates the need for constant software updates as well as the use of thumb drives and cables to move and manage music.”

“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,” Carr said. “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.”

Store Music for Free

Customers automatically start with 5 GB of Cloud Drive storage to upload their digital music library, and those who purchase an Amazon MP3 album will be upgraded to 20 GB of Cloud Drive space. New Amazon MP3 purchases saved directly to Cloud Drive are stored for free and do not count against a customer’s storage quota.

Adding Music to Cloud Drive

Amazon’s easy uploading process makes it simple for customers to save their music library to their Cloud Drive. Files can be stored in AAC or MP3 formats and will be uploaded to Cloud Drive in the original bit rate. Customers can hand-pick particular songs, artists, albums or playlists to upload or simply upload their entire music library.

Cloud Player for Web

Customers who have a computer with a Web browser can listen to their music. Cloud Player for Web currently supports Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari for Mac, and Chrome. Cloud Player for Web lets customers easily manage their music with download and streaming options. Customers don’t need to worry about regularly updating software on their computer to enjoy music, and Amazon MP3 customers can continue to use iTunes and Windows Media Player to add their music to their iPods and MP3 players.

Cloud Player for Android

Cloud Player for Android is now bundled into the new version of the Amazon MP3 App; it includes the full Amazon MP3 Store and the mobile version of Cloud Player. Customers can use the app to play music stored on their Cloud Drive and music stored locally on their device. Features include the ability to search and browse by artist, album or song, create playlists and download music from Cloud Drive.

Secure Storage

Customers never need to worry about losing their music collection to a hard drive crash again. Files are securely stored on Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) and each file is uploaded to Cloud Drive in its original bit rate. Customers can buy music anywhere and know that their MP3s are safely stored in Cloud Drive and accessible from any device.

Store More than Music

Cloud Drive allows customers to upload and store all kinds of digital files; music, photos, videos and documents can be stored securely and are available via web browser on any computer. In addition to the 5 GB of free storage, customers can purchase storage plans starting at $20 a year for 20 GB.

Cloud Drive Cloud Player for Web Cloud Player for Android
Cost -5 GB: Free-20 GB: Free for one year with purchase of MP3 album 

-Additional storage plans starting at $20 a year

-Free -Free
Storage -Digital Music-Videos 

-Photos

-Documents

-N/A -N/A
Format -Music: Any type of file-Video: Any type of file 

-Pictures: Any type of file

-Documents: Any type of file

-Music: MP3, AAC -Music: MP3, AAC
CompatibleDevices -Macs 

-PCs

-Android Phones-Android Tablets 

-Macs

-PCs

-Android Phones-Android Tablets
Audio Quality -N/A -Original bit rate of your music file -Original bit rate of your music file
Basic Features -Upload, download, move, copy, delete, rename. -Upload, download, playback, playlist management -Upload, download, playback, playlist management

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3 Responses to Taking a Huge Bite Out of Apple’s Music Ecosystem: Amazon Brings Magical Kindle-Style Customer-Centric Convenience and Connectivity to Music with the Amazon Cloud Drive and Cloud Player

  1. Steve Windwalker March 29, 2011 at 3:27 pm #

    Interesting thoughts, April. I agree that lots of other folks will be in the same boat with you, but that there will also be tons of people — presumably most of them with high-speed coverage — for whom this will hit the sweet spot.
    * My experience today with cloud-loading the paltry library of 690 songs that are on my relatively new Mac is that it took less than an hour, so it might take two or three overnight sessions to deal with a media library the size of yours.
    * There will be plenty of people who, like you, won’t go in this direction because of the incompatibility with i-devices. But let’s hope that this step by Amazon will hasten a similar step by Apple.

    Cheers,
    Steve

  2. Patricia Witzki March 29, 2011 at 2:46 pm #

    I am 66 years old and I love my kindle. I am so happy to hear about amazon cloud. I am looking forward to the next addition to the kindle nation. My biggest wish is for amazon kindle be used with the overdrive.

  3. April L. Hamilton March 29, 2011 at 1:16 pm #

    It’s an interesting idea, and I’m generally in favor of paradigm-shifting technologies, but I can’t imagine using it and I think lots of other folks will be in the same boat with me on this. Here’s why:

    1) Based on the size of my media library I’d need to pay for the 100GB storage to begin with, and my space requirements will only go up. I can’t see the sense in paying $100+ per year for storage when I’ve already got my local storage available for free—or at least, already bought and paid for.

    2) The fact that Amazon’s cloud is non-compatible with Apple devices (something I learned from an actual user) is a real dealbreaker. My iPod is my constant companion, both for music and audiobooks, and while it’s true I could switch to a Zune or other non-Apple device, why should invest more $$, time and effort to make a platform switch when I already have devices I’m happy with on hand? Having my iPod, iPad and Macbook all shut out of the cloud is a *big* problem for me.

    3) Judging by some YouTube videos posted by actual cloud users, it takes about a minute and a half to upload a typical, 3 – 3.5 minute song to the cloud. I don’t even want to contemplate how long video and audiobook content will take! Considering that I have over 60GB of music files, 20GB of video and 15+ GB of audiobooks, it would take me many, many upload sessions spread across a span of months to get all my content loaded to the cloud.

    4) Having observed (with some annoyance) how long it can take for content from my Apple Time Capsule backup drive/media server to buffer music or video to my local, networked devices, I shudder to think of the delays in buffering material from a cloud storage space. What if my wireless connection is lost mid-stream, or if I’m in an area without 3-4G wireless coverage? It seems to me like one of the new service’s prime draws—mobile access from anywhere, at any time—may turn out to be one of its prime drawbacks, in practice.

    Just my .02. If the service were cheaper, if it were compatible with Apple devices, and if it came with a painless upload/migration tool, I’d be much more interested.

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