Amazon's Cloud Player has already won me over

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Ah Amazon, how you confuse me. First I was happy with the Android Market, then you opened your Appstore and now I find myself coming to you first when I need a new app. Then, just as I had gotten comfortable with the idea of spending $10/month for a subscription-based music streaming service, you launch Cloud Drive and Cloud Player, an easy way for me to put my personal collection in the cloud and stream it anywhere.

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I'm fully aware this isn't the first service to offer this capability, but Amazon made it so easy to get started. I already have an Amazon account, and my first 5 GB of space was free. The barrier to entry for trying the service was nearly zero. The service was live when I woke up and I was able to get a couple hundred songs uploaded onto my Cloud Drive while getting ready for work. All I had to do was download a little Adobe Air-based Amazon MP3 Uploader app, point it at my iTunes directory and choose the music I wanted to upload. While I brushed my teeth, my Cloud Drive got populated (full disclosure, it actually took about 30 minutes to upload about 250 songs).

When I got to work I didn't have to download anything. The Cloud Player is a web page. This is convenient but perhaps not ideal; I wouldn't mind a stand alone app for streaming as an option. Another nice touch? A QR code on the Player page made downloading the Android app quick and easy.

I have a modest digital music collection, but it's still larger the 5 GB. I could upgrade to 20 GB for $20/year, but Amazon is offering a deal. Buy an MP3 Album from Amazon and they bump you up to 20 GB for free. For now at least. It isn't clear if that offer will stand after the first year. You can go past 20 GB too at a flat rate of $1/year/GB. 50 GB for $50, 1,000 GB for $1,000. If you're one of these people with 300 GBs of music this isn't going to be a cheap proposition but frankly, you're an edge case.

I decided to buy an album to get that 20 GB deal. It apparently doesn't matter how much the album costs. Centernetworks.com tipped us off that you can buy the $0.69 album "Trouty Mouth" (from the TV series Glee) and still qualify for the 20 GB of space. I opted for an old Moody Blues album, filling a gap in my collection for $8 or so. My account now reads as being a 20GB "trial" that expires on March 29, 2012. I suspect next March I'll have to cough up the $20 for another year of storage.

When I bought the album I had the option of storing the files directly into my Cloud Drive, which I did. A nice bonus for heavy Amazon MP3 users is that new Amazon MP3 purchases won't count against your storage figures. Once your new files are in your Cloud Drive you can still download them to a local machine for archiving, or to your Android device for playing without eating up your bandwidth.

Throughout the day I watched analysts and the technology press covering this new service. First there was a lot of "Amazon beats Apple and Google to market" noise, but then we started hearing rumblings about licensing. For instance, see CNET's Amazon's cloud risks war with labels, studios. Since I'm already a fan of this service I hope nothing comes of this. VentureBeat had a post quoting Forrester analyst Mark Mulligan as reacting with a bored "Meh" when asked about the service. I paraphrase of course. What he really said was that services like Cloud Play "are not an innovation in the music product” and they “will not save music industry”.

I'm not an analyst. I'm just an Amazon user who saw a new feature and tried it out. I liked it enough that I'm staying with it, and you can bet this is another reason to buy music from Amazon MP3 rather than iTunes. I'm the perfect customer: someone with a digital music collection who was sick and tired of backing it up and moving it from computer to computer every time I upgraded, and who was constantly "losing" music because I'd buy it on one PC and never move it to my 'central' collection so it'd never get backed up. Now I'll buy from Amazon MP3 and stick it right in the cloud.

Yup, Amazon has converted me once again...

Peter Smith writes about personal technology for ITworld. Follow him on Twitter @pasmith.

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