Amazon’s new “Cloud Player” music service is a welcome addition to the field of online music services. It is a basic music locker service in its current form, largely identical to the Myplay Locker Service Doug Camplejohn and I pioneered and launched in 1999. Users get 5GB of storage free (Myplay was 3GB free), can use a desktop uploader client app, and can click to stream music back to web and Android mobile devices. Amazon will charge you $1 per GB per year beyond that. (free upgrade to 20GB if you buy an MP3 album).

The service is entirely legal. Users are uploading music they own (or have otherwise acquired), Amazon is presumably segregating accounts, and users are authenticated into the locker to stream or download back. By segregating, I mean I assume Amazon is storing individual copies of every song uploaded, rather than storing a single copy of every song and using pointers in each locker. (such a shortcut would likely require licenses from sound recording copyright holders and publishers). Amazon is also not offering sharing. I presume they are allowing only single-user sign-on to avoid locker sharing.

Amazon auto-loads your AmazonMP3 purchases into your locker. Very nice. I have not yet checked if they will do this retroactively for all of your previous purchases, which would make sense.

The pricing is somewhat surprising to me. The service is clearly targeted to people with smaller digital music collections, which is the majority of the world. Power users with large collections would find the service uneconomical. For instance, I have about 800GB of music, which would cost me $800 a year. Yet Spotify is $120 a year and gives me access to millions of other songs I don’t yet have.

A bunch, actually. Obviously the lack of iOS apps is a curious omission. Also sounds like they are using flash quite a bit. Odd there is no nice HTML5 support with use of audio tags. You could imagine an amazing HTML5 player which would work fantastically well on iPad and all tablets without needing an app download. HTML5 is extremely well-suited to this application, in that Amazon could make use of the local database to store song names and metadata to mimic an ITunes-like experience in the browser. I presume iOS support is coming or will otherwise be blocked by Apple. Most disappointing is the complete lack of any social features. No integration into Facebook or existing social networks. No playlist sharing. No music news feed to see what my friends listen to. This is an area where Spotify shines. In many ways, this is not surprising since Amazon has under-innovated around social across their regular shopping experience today. In addition, they don’t seem to be offering any library clean-up tools, which could be a differentiator here (de-duping, metadata cleanup, adding missing album art, etc.) Finally, for cloud services to work really well on mobile devices, there needs to be limited playlist syncing to the local device. Spotify does this really well and prices it as a premium feature. Looks like Amazon overlooked this in the first version.

In short, the service is useful but basic as launched. It is likely to be improved over time. I am happy to have Amazon offering the service and expect others like Google will do the same. (please excuse the lack of links in this post. Writing this on my iPad in the wordpress app.)