Yesterday Google announced Google Music, their competitor platform to the recent Amazon Cloud Player. Both are services that allow you to store and access your music from within the “cloud”; Amazon can transfer music purchases directly in for you, with the Google service you have to upload your music content first. Unfortunately both of these services are US-only (I imagine due to the contorted licencing in the Entertainment industry) and so I can’t trial them, however the concept is pretty simple; upload your music to us and we’ll let you access it from anywhere.
Of course there’s always a catch and in this instance for both of these services it will be in support for the device on which the music plays. Although the underlying storage for Amazon is generic (an offering called Amazon Cloud Drive), the Amazon Cloud Player (the app to play your music) is only available and supported on specific platforms, notably Windows & Mac PCs, Android, Blackberry and Palm. There is no Windows phone, iPad, iPod or iPhone support. In addition, Amazon don’t support WMA or lossless AAC formats. Google’s offering works on any Flash-enabled device, so no iPod, iPad or iPhone.
It is pretty much guaranteed that Apple will release their own service any day (rumoured to be called iCloud) and this will likely automatically “know” your iTunes purchases and make them available to play. Apple recently purchased 12PB of storage to cover the iCloud requirements according to speculation in the industry.
Where does this leave the consumer? The move to cloud music storage is playing out in exactly the same way the music format wars did 10 years ago. There’s still a confusion of MP3, WMA and AAC formats out there and I’m sure we’ve all got music of varying quality in each one. I see lack of cross-platform support as nothing more than an effort to retain users to a specific platform. The effort of moving music collections between providers will be significant and the services are being designed to remove the need to upload content, encouraging users not to store a local copy, so making it difficult to drop a service without spending significant time moving files around and converting them between formats.
Maybe it’s time again to look at independent alternatives. Previously I tried Zumodrive for the iPhone, which had a music player built in. This failed to work properly because only the built-in applications were true multi-tasking at the time. Receiving a text message or other alert dropped the music track, which was incredibly annoying. Other than Spotify, does anyone have any third party independent suggestions, or do I need to get coding?