Amazon disguises powerful online storage as cloud music service

Amazon Cloud Drive can stream MP3s, or backup your 1TB disk

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Amazon revolutionized the music business when it began selling music CDs online – making local music stores with limited space archaic before Apple's iTunes made them completely obsolete.

Now it appears to be trying to get its mojo back in the music market by combining its two major strengths – consumer retail sales and cloud computing – into a new music-storage service called Amazon Cloud Drive.

The pitch is that consumers will no longer have to rely on their own error-prone hard drives to store their precious Justin Bieber tunes.

Instead they can upload their MP3 or AAC files to a free Amazon Cloud Drive – free up to 5GB, or 20GB if you buy an entire MP3 album from Amazon – then download or stream the music to their PCs, Macs or Android devices using a special player from Amazon.

It presses most of the buttons Apple's rumored Music Locker service does, except the online storage and computing infrastructure is already in place.

Which is where Cloud Drive becomes an odd bait-and-switch.

Amazon's press release and promotion has focused exclusively on the music aspect – with some mention that the actual space is in Amazon's bulletproof S3 storage service – Amazon Cloud Drive is not exclusively a service to store music.

In fact, it's a general-purpose online storage service aimed at consumers, with subscription fees of a dollar per year per gigabyte, in steps ranging from 20GB for $20/year to 1000GB for $1,000/year.

The free 5GB of basic storage is the same as you'd get signing up for the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Free Usage Tier, though that would also give you 10GB of Elastic Block Storage, 750 hours of Linux VM usage, load balancing, Internet data transfer, 25 hours of use and 1GB of storage on an Amazon SimpleDB database, 100,000 HTTP requests and 10 Cloudwatch alarms.

Cloud Drive is a lot cheaper than S3, which costs $0.14 per month per gigabyte for the first terabyte. That's $1.68/GB/year compared to $1/GB/year for Cloud Drive.

Cloud Drive isn't much different than any other consumer-oriented cloud-based storage, about which consumers tend to have very strong feelings.

Mozy was a big favorite until it boosted its prices to $6 per month for 50GB or 125GB for $9.99 per month.

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