Amazon launches smartphone music streaming in US

However, European residents and owners of Apple's iPad and iPhone need not apply

Amazon's new Cloud Drive online storage service allows customers to store music in the cloud and, in the U.S., stream it to an Android app or through a Web browser.

Cloud Drive, announced Tuesday, offers 5GB of free storage for documents, pictures, videos and music, with more storage available for a fee. Using Amazon Cloud Player for the Web or Amazon Cloud Player for Android, U.S. users can stream the stored music and play it on Macs, PCs and Android smartphones and tablets.

Previously, Amazon has offered an MP3 store where people can buy music using a Web browser or the MP3 app for Android, which now includes the Cloud Player functionality. New music purchases made in the store are saved directly to Cloud Drive, and don't count against a user's storage quota.

Amazon also offers MP3 store apps for the BlackBerry OS and Palm OS, but neither offers the Cloud Player function, according to an Amazon help document. Apple's iPad and iPhone are currently not supported for either the Amazon MP3 store or Amazon Cloud Player apps, it said.

Users outside of the U.S, are also out of luck, even if they have an Android smartphone or tablet. The phone and browser streaming features are currently available to U.S. residents only, according to Amazon. However, at noon Central European Time on Tuesday the player streamed music to a laptop in Sweden running Windows XP and Firefox.

The 5GB free storage plan on Cloud Drive is available to all. Customers can buy between 20GB and 1,000GB of extra capacity for US$1 per gigabyte per year, unless they live in the European Union. Amazon did not say why the extra storage is not available within the E.U.

A number of large companies are showing renewed interest in online music. Google and Apple are rumored to be working on new music services.

If Apple and Google go one step further than Amazon and offer unlimited access to streaming music, like Spotify currently does in Europe, remains to be seen. At the same time, Spotify still hasn't given up on a U.S. launch. The company is working hard to get service up and running in the U.S. as soon as possible, but it has no new details to divulge, a spokeswoman recently said via e-mail.

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