updated 07:00 pm EDT, Tue March 29, 2011
Now official for web, Android devices
[Update: Sony, other media companies upset by early announcement] Amazon in the night unveiled its rumored media locker and beat Apple and Google in the process. Cloud Drive gives users a way to store a minimum of 5GB of files on the web and access them from any Mac or PC. The company has a unique tie-in with Amazon MP3: any songs bought through the music store are saved to the Cloud Drive and available either for backup or for remote streaming without counting towards the quota.
Accordingly, the company has both a Cloud Player for Web and an updated version of Amazon MP3 for Android (free, Market). Both can play music stored on the Player without needing a third-party app or otherwise raw access.
The retailer's rush to get the service active without complete music licensing is evident in the lack of true sync. Music uploads are only possible from computers and thus won't let Android users backup their Amazon MP3 purchases to work truly independently from a computer. It wouldn't explain why and said it was simply "not possible at this time." Leaks have hinted that labels have been pressing for a second charge to allow media uploads under certain conditions.
AppleInsider is reporting that Sony and other parties involved in the negotiations are upset by the fact that the service has gone "live" without licenses in place, with some viewing the move as illegal. A Sony spokesperson said the company was "keeping its legal options open," while expressing hope that the two companies could soon come to an agreement.
US-based Amazon users can get 5GB of space for free but get an incentive to upgrade early. Anyone who buys an Amazon MP3 album in 2011 will automatically be upgraded to 20GB of space for the year from the sale. The extra capacity would otherwise cost $20 per year. Tiers exist to provide 50GB, 100GB, 200GB, 500GB and 1TB, all of which cost $1 per year for every gigabyte of storage. Using the Cloud Player on the web needs Chrome, Firefox 3.5, Internet Explorer 8, or Safari; Amazon MP3 needs at least Android 1.6.
The move is a minor surprise. Amazon already had its S3 storage service for businesses, but Apple and Google were both known to be negotiating for longer. Apple is believed to be tying in its media locker with MobileMe and has hinted it might come as soon as the spring, once its North Carolina datacenter goes live. Google, meanwhile, is still negotiating Google Music after nearly a year, likely due to the same licensing limits faced by Amazon.