Amazon.com let another shoe drop this week with announcement of Amazon Cloud Drive and Amazon Cloud Player for streaming/downloading music stored on your personal Cloud Drive.
I was inspired by the GeekWire report to dig deeper. This is a very interesting development as a Version 1.0 ecosystem hub offering.
If you want to check this out further before diving in, I recommend starting at the Amazon MP3 page.
Cloud Drive One Click Away
If you are not currently remembered by amazon.com, you will have to sign in to an account to reach the Cloud Drive automatically-available to that account.
If you do not have an amazon.com account, you will need to create one at the sign-in dialog. You’ll need an e-mail address and a password. There is no need to provide billing information until you decide to buy something such as an Amazon MP3 song.
The amazon.com Cloud Drive service is offered in the United States and access from other locations may be restricted in one way or another. Check the Frequently Asked Questions for that and other details.
But Wait, There’s More: Amazon Cloud Player
The Amazon Cloud Player is the music-focused application delivered along with the launch of Cloud Drive. It is an important provision because it provides a music-specific integrated experience. Your CloudDrive-based musical ecosystem starts here. Once you are started, you will have something like this for your Cloud Player on the Web page:
One great feature of the Cloud Player is that it does not transform or compress my music, so if I am playing via Cloud Player streaming from the web, I still experience the full fidelity of the MP3 tracks that I uploaded, for example.
Cloud Player for the Web uses the Amazon MP3 Downloader and Amazon MP3 Uploader (installed on first-need if you don’t have them already) for transfer. This provides integration on Windows, Macintosh, and Linux. It also provides smooth integration with Windows Media Player (and hence Zune PC) and iTunes. That means there is already a path for synchronization and playing on other devices such as my Windows Phone 7, MP3 Plays-for-Sure devices, and devices that synchronize with iTunes.
There is also a Cloud Player for Android application that provides streaming play of Cloud Drive music to personal Android devices, removing the need to move tracks to the device or use other tricks to obtain streaming from Cloud Drive without using Cloud Player.
Note that this is not the same as a music streaming or subscription service that many people prefer, but a way to have a hub for personal access to DRM-free music tracks that we have purchased for our private use. (I suppose we can also backup some kinds of DRM-protected personal music on Cloud Drive; we just won’t be able to use Cloud Player with it.)
Because music albums and tracked purchased on Amazon MP3 and delivered to Cloud Drive at purchase do not count against the Cloud Drive quota, this is the preferred way to acquire such purchases as far as I am concerned. Since I also want to have local copies and private backups, I will happily download from Cloud Drive after the purchase.
The three albums shown above reflect my experiments to confirm my use cases:
- The Nora Jones album was purchased on Amazon MP3 and delivered directly to Cloud Drive. It was at an exceptional price as part of Cloud Drive promotion and I was swayed by her vamping of a sultry cover of Roy Orbison’s “Blue Bayou” that I sampled first. This purchase earned me a jump from 5GB to 20GB on 1-year free trial. I then downloaded the album to my PC; I am listening to all 19 tracks while I am writing this.
- The Eagle Records “Live at Montreaux” Sampler was a free Amazon MP3 download that I already had on my PC. Uploading it via the Cloud Player was effortless, although this album did consume some of my Cloud Drive quota.
- The Beethoven Experience “album” is a 344MB folder of the nine Beethoven symphonies performed by the BBC Symphony and made available as downloads for a short time following the broadcast performances in 2005. This upload was my stress test for the uploader. It worked just fine. I have no idea how Amazon came up with the particular cover art. (I already have these on my Windows Phone, transferred from Windows Media Player via Zune PC.)
- Amazon is using Captchas as part of click-throughs. I have no idea how well accessibility issues are handled with the pop-up dialogs and the captcha arrangements.
- There is a 2GB single-file upload limit.
- Amazon Cloud Player is recommended as the easiest way to upload (and download) songs. I agree. The Amazon MP3 Uploader and Downloader assists are particularly useful in preserving the album structure and artist associations as well as finding album art. The integration with Windows Media Player and iTunes will be particularly welcome. I noticed one glitch with the initial Cloud Player in preserving track list sequence and that will be important to repair quickly for fans of opera, theatrical music, and classical genres where the work is provided in multiple tracks.
- The Amazon MP3 Uploader can index all of my music. I let it do that. I was shocked to discover I have accumulated over 37GB of music in over 4,400 tracks. This is not something I would upload wholesale to Cloud Drive, and I have declined to lease the additional storage that such an upload would take.