Amazon fires away at Google by rolling out cloud music player

by Phil Hornshaw

Internet retail superpower Amazon (AMZN) is gunning for Google (GOOG) and its place as the top provider of Android app services. Just about a week after rolling out its new Amazon Appstore that sells apps for Android devices, Amazon has rolled out a new cloud music service that works on PCs and Android devices.

Amazon's Cloud Player works by allowing users to upload their music to Amazon's servers from a PC or Mac that's linked to an Amazon account. Once that's done, the music can be streamed from Amazon over an Internet connection to any supported device, for free. That means PCs and Macs can receive and play the music, as well as Android phones and tablets – Amazon has added the cloud player on its Android MP3 app, so anything uploaded to the Amazon cloud can be played right away.

Users start with some free server space – 5GB, to be exact – that can be used to upload MP3 and AAC music files. Buying an album of MP3s from Amazon's music service automatically bumps that storage quota to 20GB, with the Amazon MP3s

That's a boon to Android users, who can use the service right away without any cost. It demonstrates a big push from Amazon to take a chunk of the mobile market for Android away from Google. The Android Market that Google created is coming along, but it's still far from being as solid as Apple’s (AAPL) iTunes App Store, and that can push users and developers alike to adapt the Apple system. The Android Market has problems with helping users find apps and stopping developers from stealing from one another, and while Apple has some similar issues, its control and iTunes ecosystem mitigate a lot of the problems that Google continues to struggle with.

Enter Amazon, which has a new Android app store to compete with Google and has already garnered some big exclusive deals for its store. Most notably is Angry Birds Rio, the latest iteration of Rovio Mobile's gaming phenomenon, which ties in with the upcoming Fox animated movie Rio. Amazon has grabbed other exclusives along the way, and is leveraging its substantial retail infrastructure to help it compete in the app space.

To the cloud!

And then there's the Cloud Player, a service with which neither Google nor Apple has anything to compete. That gives Amazon even more power – right now, the Cloud Player doesn't support iOS devices through their Mobile Safari web browser (and it seems no other available browsers in the App Store work with the Cloud Player, either). That means Amazon has effectively locked out Apple users from the service; whether the company eventually allows iOS to access the Cloud Player is up to Amazon, and it could cost iDevice owners when they could get the service for free.

Google and Apple are both (supposedly) working on cloud music services of their own. We've been hearing rumors that Google is priming to roll out its own music service, similar to what it recently did with e-books. Reportedly, Google was struggling with what Amazon seems to have overcome: the battle with record companies over storing things digitally in the cloud. Apple's side may be stalled by the desire to incorporate video streaming into its service, or by technical considerations that are going with the big server farm (at the cost of $1 billion) it recently built to reportedly be the backbone of its coming cloud services.

Regardless of what the other two companies are up to, there's one big glaring fact that remains: Amazon has cloud-based music, Google and Apple don't.

It's clear that Amazon has a real battle plan for Android and the mobile space, and it's rolling it out blitzkrieg-style. The company is firing away with both barrels and providing services to the mobile space that just aren't available anywhere else.