Great Ideas: Amazon Cloud Player

Great Ideas: Amazon Cloud Player

Mar 29


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AMAZON CLOUD PLAYER: FIRST IMPRESSIONS
By Ben Parr
Mashable
March 29, 2011

Original Link

Amazon has made its triumphant entry into the music streaming world with Amazon Cloud Player. Rather than stream a library of predetermined music (e.g. Pandora, Spotify), Cloud Player lets you upload your existing music library and stream it from any computer or Android device.

For the last 30 minutes, I’ve been testing out Cloud Player. While it’s impossible to get the full experience in half an hour (mostly because Amazon estimates it will be another 12 hours before my first 1,262 songs are uploaded), I’ve had enough time to play with it to write a preliminary evaluation of Amazon’s new streaming music service.

Here are some of my initial thoughts about Amazon Cloud Player and its companion Android app:

Uploading: When you first install Cloud Drive on your computer, it searches your entire hard drive for your music and your playlists. While this takes a while (10 minutes), once the process is complete, it makes uploading songs a snap. It pulled my iTunes playlists and let me choose which ones I wanted to upload, a very welcomed feature.

Usability: The web-based cloud player is really intuitive. The layout makes it easy to select songs, search your music archives and organize your music. The player itself is quick to load, responsive, and even lets you skip around to different points in your music, something not possible with most of the streaming music players on the market today.

Music Quality: While I’m no audiophile, I really can’t tell any difference between Cloud Player and a streaming service like Pandora. Playing music from your hard drive is going to give you a better acoustic experience, but the vast majority of consumers won’t be able to tell the difference.

Features: Cloud Player doesn’t have a lot of frills, but you will be able to do almost everything you want within it. It doesn’t have iTunes’ ability to automatically download podcasts or Genius recommendation feature, but they’re not necessary features for a great music experience.

Android: I also took Amazon’s Cloud Player app for spin on a Motorola Atrix 4G phone. After signing in with my Amazon account, it quickly found my uploaded music and played it flawlessly. Again, I was able to skip around to different points in my music, create playlists and search my Cloud Drive for uploaded music. The player even lets you access your on-device music, essentially rendering Google’s official Music player useless.

Price: You start with 5 GB of free storage, but for the vast majority of people, that won’t be enough. Without a second thought, I upgraded to 20 GB for $20/year, though in retrospect I should’ve bought a cheap album instead. The pricing plan is very simple: 1 GB per dollar. I paid more for Pandora One ($36)than I did for 20 GB of Cloud Player storage, so overall I’d say Amazon’s giving everybody a good deal.

Even from my short test, it became apparent that Amazon wasn’t launching some half-baked product; Cloud Player is a fully-functional, very usable streaming music player that could even make iTunes obsolete for many people, and its ability to play on-device and cloud-based music could quickly make it Android’s killer app.

Amazon has thrown down the gauntlet and set a high bar for cloud-based music streaming. Apple and Google, which are expected to launch their own cloud players sometime this year, will have to match Amazon on usability and price if they’re going to compete.

Amazon can’t rest on its laurels though; Apple will surely harness its control of iPhone, iTunes and iOS to boost its own offering and give the shopping giant a run for its money.

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AMAZON ROLLS OUT CLOUD MUSIC PLAYER, DOESN’T WORK ON IOS DEVICES
by Phil Hornshaw
TechCrunch
March 29, 2011

Original Link

Make no mistake: Amazon (AMZN) means to be a big contender in mobile.

It just bested its two big rivals — Google (GOOG) and to a lesser extent, Apple (AAPL) — by beating both companies to the punch with a “cloud” music service that allows users to upload their tracks to Amazon’s servers and play them anywhere with an Internet connection, all for free. Both Apple and Google supposedly have such services in the works, but Amazon has one today, complete with a player for devices running on Google’s Android operating system.

Meanwhile, if you’re sporting an iOS device, it seems the Amazon Cloud Player is rendered unusable: it doesn’t seem able to play in the conventional sense on Apple’s Mobile Safari browser, or any other browser yet supported by iOS devices.

That’s not an issue of Flash, either, according to TechCrunch. The Cloud Player only supports certain browsers — Chrome, Safari, Firefox and Internet Explorer on PCs and Macs and mobile devices. On Android smart phones and tablets, the workaround is Amazon’s Cloud Player mobile app, but on iOS, one would have to use a mobile browser.

I double checked TechCrunch’s word on this, and it seems that, yes, Mobile Safari isn’t supported by Amazon Cloud Player. It’s not an issue of Flash support, since the Cloud Player only uses Flash for uploads, not for playback. I couldn’t get the player to function on alternative iOS mobile browsers like Skyfire (which does support some Flash), either.

In essence, we iPhone and iPad owners are out of luck until Amazon deems to build us a workaround app or support additional browsers. Kind of brilliantly, that’s Amazon’s prerogative, and it gives the company the ability to dictate to us the terms of the deal — namely, if Amazon doesn’t want us to play, we don’t get to play. Kind of ironic and fitting, given that Apple has pulled this exact trick on Amazon.

Amazon’s now in a position to charge iOS users for the privilege of using the Cloud Player that other users, specifically Android users, would get for free. It also bolsters what Amazon is trying to build with its Amazon Appstore, where it sells apps and competes directly with Google’s own Android Market. Both Google and Apple have no competing services (yet), and anyone who’s interested in using them is beholden to Amazon to do so. Amazon, therefore, gets to use the Cloud Player to drive traffic to its Appstore and to make some money off iOS users, if it so chooses, while building a reputation for the service and Amazon in general by handing it out for free.

But in the meantime, what’s a poor iOS user to do? Hate to say it, but the same thing we always do: wait for gifts to fall from the Apple tree. Rumor has it that cloud services are a big part of iOS 5, which will probably be detailed at Apple’s upcoming Worldwide Developers Conference in June in San Francisco, and released in the fall.

Apple is said to be holding back its own streaming cloud music service for one of perhaps several reasons. Hollywood types have leaked that Apple is hoping to integrate video into its streaming service, and that’s taking time to finagle both on technical and copyright fronts. Or, it could be related to the creation and implementation of the new $1 billion server farm Apple just built, which will supposedly be the infrastructure for its cloud services. We’ll just have to wait and see, as usual.

News Of A Workaround Emerges

Oh, but while you’re waiting patiently, there is, apparently, a fumbling workaround to use the Amazon Cloud Player on an iOS device. Head over to Amazon.com on Mobile Safari, switch to the full site, and pull up the Cloud Player link. Hit “Continue” when Amazon warns that your browser isn’t supported and you’ll still be brought to your playlist (provided you’ve uploaded songs to the player — that’s kind of important).

Once you’re there, tick off the songs you want and hit “Download.” Ignore Amazon’s promptings to use its proprietary downloader and the track will open in Mobile Safari’s media player instead. Bam — cloud music support. It’s not ideal, but it’s something.

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