Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Amazon's new Cloud Player for Web and Android / NYT-web free w/Kindle Edition - UPDATE3

While looking up info on the new arrangement by the New York Times to offer full, unlimited access to their now suddenly-costly website news "bundled" with a subscription to the Kindle Edition of the New York Times (but not with other dedicated e-readers for now), I came upon this new offering by Amazon and it's an interesting one. (See important UPDATES.)

 (I'll do a separate entry for the NY Times website situation and the new announcement for Kindle-edition subscribers but, essentially, the $19.95/mo. Kindle NYT subscription will give full access to the website too.)

Mashable headlines its story:
"Amazon Cloud Player Lets You Play Your Music From Anywhere."

Amazon is now in the music streaming business with the launch today of Cloud Player, a music player setup that lets you upload your favorite music to your Amazon Cloud Drive and play the mp3's via the web or via an Android device and listen to your music wherever you are whenever you want, if you have a good connection to the Net.

  Amazon starts you out with 5 GB of free storage, but you can be upgraded to a 20-GB cloud space for a year when you buy one mp3 album through Amazon by December 31, 2011.  If you use more than your allotment, it costs an additional $1 per GB.

' CAVEAT: Amazon states that "If you qualify for this offer and either have not signed up for Amazon Cloud Drive or have the 5GB Amazon Cloud Drive plan, you will be automatically eligible for the 20 GB plan for one year from the date of your MP3 album purchase.  Unless you set your account to auto-renew to a paid plan, the 20 GB plan will revert to a free plan one year from the date of your MP3 album purchase.

    If your Amazon Cloud Drive account is already at 20 GB or higher when you qualify for this offer, the offer will be saved to your account as a $20 credit toward any future Amazon Cloud Drive plan fees you may incur at the time your plan renews or at the time you upgrade your plan. If you elect to downgrade your plan to a free plan at the time of renewal, your upgrade offer will be applied towards the 20 GB plan at that time. '

  In other words, Amazon is encouraging customers to get used to 20 gigs of cloud space for our music, but after the first year of 20 free gigs, it would cost $20 per year for that much cloud storage; they do automatically set you back to 5 GB after a year, rather than automatically charge you for the larger storage space, however  So, if you don't want that, you can just take the 20 GB plan for a year (after buying one mp3 album) and then scale back to using 5 gigs which will still be free.

  UPDATED from experience 3/31/11 - On 3/30, I bought an inexpensive mp3 album and received the 20 GB space.  Today, I bought a couple of other inexpensive ones and got an add'l credit for (another) 20 GB, to be used upon the renewal date of the bonus space I received yesterday.  That explains the paragraph just above.

  It's worth noting here that NEW mp3's you purchase from Amazon get free storage in the cloud and are never added against your storage space count.

  1,000 favorites available (in the free Basic plan) for free personal streaming has sounded pretty good to me, actually.  It does cost money to store and stream music, so $20/year (or $1.67/month) for the streaming of music we choose seems reasonable.

  Since my very old iPod holds 60 gigs of music, even 20 doesn't seem huge to me and 5 gigs seems small, but Amazon points out that with only the 5-gig allotment you can store about 1,000 songs on it (4,000 with the 20-gig plan).  So, 20 gigs of my favorite music available anywhere is attractive.  I did sign up today because I don't tend to carry my iPod out -- and playing mp3's on my Kindle uses up battery time I'd rather save for books, periodicals, and my now constant use of the Kindle Notepad :-)

Other aspects
  With both the web and Android versions of the cloud player you can create playlists and organize your music.

  The agreement I encountered told me I had to agree NOT to share the cloud music with others (not to make a streaming service for others) and not to store music for others.  Listening to your music requires a password.

  Mashable reports that Google and Apple "have been rumored to be hard at work on their own cloud-based players, but it looks like Amazon beat them to the punch."

Technical Details - from the Amazon CloudPlayer pages:
  · Amazon Cloud Player and Amazon Cloud Drive is available for US customers only *.  (See more info at the linked '*')

UPDATE4: Amazon has changed the wording now on this page:
CHANGE: CLOUD DRIVE at 5GB is available to all Amazon customers.
  The UPGRADE for storage is not available in some countries (see bottom).
  CLOUD PLAYER is available only for U.S. customers.  This streams music, and rights worldwide are probably a problem as well as streaming using a lot of bandwidth and costly to run.
  · App upgrade is only available for Android OS 1.6+
  · PDF and video content is currently not available for purchase on the Amazon MP3 Android app

Well, now that Amazon is streaming everything (latest movies too) and making available many apps for Android, I can't imagine they won't be producing an Amazon Android tablet at some point.

UPDATE1 - I omitted one very important point:
' Songs purchased from Amazon MP3 are stored in your Cloud Drive for free.

When you purchase songs or albums from the Amazon MP3 Store, you can now save your purchases to your Cloud Drive.  All your purchases are backed up and available for you to download at any time.  Even better, you can listen to your music from any web-connected computer with Amazon Cloud Player.

And the best part?  When you save your Amazon MP3 Store purchases directly to your Cloud Drive, they don't take up any of your storage space and are always stored for free. '
Thanks to posts in the Comments area for that.  This applies only to NEW Amazon mp3 purchases.

Also, Amazon doesn't limit your storage space to mp3's.  Store your music, videos, photos, and documents on Amazon's secure servers.

  1. Be sure to check out the HELP page for "Getting Started" which shows you what to expect on your personal cloud drive, in layout.

  2. Also check out the HELP page for actually "Using Amazon Cloud Drive."

  3. On the main intro page, there are two videos available:
  One on the top-right introduces the Cloud Drive and Cloud Player, and a second video further down, in the center column is titled "Learn How to Use Cloud Player."

UPDATE3 Original posting was at 8:20 AM
(This one conflicted with earlier "Technical Details" from another Amazon page cited above but is fixed now.  See Update4. Sorry for confusing reading in this chronological (b)log.

  Another help page has a Cloud Player FAQ.  Part of that is this interesting table of countries where the upgrade to 20 gigs feature is not available.
' Where is Amazon Cloud Drive [not] available?

The 5 GB free storage plan is available to all Amazon.com customers, however further upgrades to the storage plan are currently unavailable in the following countries:
Austria Belgium Bulgaria
Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark
Estonia Finland France
Germany Greece Hungary
Ireland Italy Latvia
Lithuania Luxembourg Malta
Netherlands Poland Portugal
Romania Slovakia Slovenia
Spain Sweden United Kingdom

Update 4 See the linked section above.
Essentially, though, Cloud PLAYER is U.S. only (for streaming of customer's music).

Basic Cloud DRIVE at 5GB is for all Amazon customers.
Cloud DRIVE Upgrade to 20GB is available in only some countries, noted in the table at Update 3.

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  1. I guess you should double check, but the way I read Amazon's agreement,
    all mp3 bought from them can be stored *for free*. It is only your other files that require the various levels of payment.

  2. Anonymous,
    Good point, although almost everything I (and most people) would put on it are our favorite mp3's and 99% of them I did -not- get from Amazon through the years. But now and then I do and it's helpful to know they don't count against our storage. Thanks! Will update.

  3. Only new MP3s purchased from Amazon are stored for free and don't count against your storage limit, not Amazon MP3s purchased before yesterday.

    It would be very nice if all Amazon purchased MP3s were included automatically.

  4. Anonymous,
    I am just quoting them in that orange box, re the purchase bonus.

    But I had understood it was only new purchases, because it says, "When you purchase songs or albums from the Amazon MP3 Store, you can now save your purchases to your Cloud Drive."

    Maybe I'll add something on that from another quoted area but people linked to this post will read the comments too.

  5. Reads like mp3 purchases sent to the cloud drive from Amazon's servers (rather than from your PC) are stored for free.
    Can't try if that applies to older purchases as well, as I don't have any (the mp3 store isn't available here AFAIK, or if it is it's only been recently enabled).

    The 20GB promo is for US customers only (as are so many promos offered by US companies) so I can't try that one either.
    It does read like multiple purchases would extend the free space, but I somehow doubt that's the intent, it is probably just a poorly worded advertorial FAQ.

  6. J,
    I did read somewhere in all those pages that older mp3 purchases were not part of the deal, but their language is very clear that new mp3 purchases from Amazon don't count against the 5 free gigs and can be automatically stored in your personal cloud with that silver lining :-)

    I did put in that the whole thing is available to only U.S. customers and bold-faced that part.

    I have no idea if, like the apps, they intend to stream the music globally or not.

    The 5 gigs free option definitely is not counted-up for new Amazon mp3 purchases. That's said in more than one place.

    Sorry about the non-U.S. stuff. Makes me feel bad when posting about it.

  7. J,
    The non-U.S. mentions are conflicting. I've added those two to the blog article.

    You were able to get the basic 5GB space? Australia is not listed as a no-no for upgrades. At any rate, the first one clearly states all of it is available to only the U.S., but that clearly conflicts with the 2nd statement (Update 3). It's almost as if they changed this but did not update the first instance. And the programming may not be totally in place. Can't ask you to test it as it would cost an album. But maybe you could find a cheap album :-)

  8. From the Netherlands I can get to a page to purchase more storage space. And there are purchase buttons there (but I've not tried using them, don't want to get stuck with a $20 recurring fee).
    But then again, I also see a purchase button and mp3 albums, but when clicking those (I tried once) get a message that that service isn't available in the Netherlands.
    Wish they'd just not list any content not available to you, they do have the capability of filtering it out (as they clearly know it before even showing the page if you're logged in). As it is half the recommendations you get as a non-US customer lead you to products you find you can't purchase, making the recommendations process a bit pointless.

  9. j,
    I'd forgotten you are in The Netherlands. Notice the table I inserted here (at the bottom of the blog post) from a Help page.

    Unfortunately, it lists, for the storage upgrade feature, the Netherlands as a country in which the upgrade is "currently unavailable."

    They say "currently" where they would not have to use that word at all, so it may be available eventually.

    I think their country features change too with the rights thing (probably publisher rights with songs) too much to program the filters for each country on everything, as rights are constantly renegotiated.

    But, in your shoes, I would feel the same wish, that they'd not show it unless it was available.

    I read that they were getting legal rights here and there for the Cloud Player and Drive up to the day before they finally announced it.
    A column said, the day before, the columnist heard that things were getting into place within a few days for the launch.

    So, I hope it happens eventually for the countries in that table.

    But maybe that'll happen before you get 1000 favorites up :-) I will use it only for stuff I really want, as I have almost everything on the 60g iPod.

  10. I've never tried drop box but I've seen it mentioned a few times in relation to this Amazon service which to me could be real gold. Amazon is very much turned into integration of all their services so I am certain that this particular service will improve over time. I'm definitely going to try it out since I spend a lot of money and time on Amazon's site anyway. Plus it'll be nice to have access to music over my phone.

  11. Kindle books already don't show a purchase button if you're in a country they're not offered, so the filters are there, just not applied consistently across the site.

  12. "Amazon Cloud Player Lets You Play Your Music From Anywhere".

    No - it's anywhere there's a sufficiently fast and reliable and consistent Internet connection which doesn't cut out or charge you a fortune when you exceed your data limit.

    I might say that I clearly spend too much time in rural areas so I'm used to no connection at all, but on Tuesday night I spent the night in a hotel in a town only yards from a motorway, and could get only the fainest intermittent EDGE connection never mind a decent 3G connection.

    How much more convenient if instead of getting my portable music player (or Kindle 4?) to connect to the net to access my collection, I could perhaps carry the tunes or audiobooks around with me on some sort of flash memory or hard disk built into the device.

    That's not to say this type of offering has no place at all, but this sort of marketing is only going to disappoint people who don't understand the shortcomings of mobile net access.

  13. Stephen,
    That's a very good point and I'll add that later. Thanks.

  14. This seems like one more piece of a puzzle that may indicate Amazon has grander ambitions to compete with Apple. I'd be interested in what you think about this... http://www.profitperspectives.com/2011/03/meet-amazon-kpad.html

  15. Profit Perspectives,
    It makes total sense and is well presented.

    See http://bit.ly/kwktab2

  16. I don't see any direct way to get previous mp3 purchases onto the Cloud Drive ... in fact, I don't think Amazon even has an area specifically for them. You can get to them by looking up your digital orders, but I couldn't find any other way of doing it, and even then, that's just linking to the pages where you bought the songs, not the actual files themselves.

    I suppose you could try downloading them again (the way that Apple does it in the iTunes store, not telling you directly that you can get a song you've previously purchased, but letting you do it for free when you try), but I don't feel like risking it, even though it's not much money.

    Of course you can use the uploading tool, and perhaps that's on purpose (to encourage you to upload everything and buy drive space, or to purchase more mp3s), but I thought they might throw a bone to existing customers ...

  17. lionsfan,
    [Edited as I made too many errors :-) ]

    http://amzn.to/cloud-help describes the "easiest" way to upload your older mp3s to your cloud drive and I don't see it as a means to encourage you to upload 'everything' when you get choices of which files or which folders.

    I think we could just look at the URLS and figure out how to use our simple file managers to copy them up to that specific area. Maybe not. The upload tool seems to be easy enough though.

    More to the point, the language is clear in many places that ONLY the "New" mp3 purchases from Amazon will be UNcounted against drive space.

    The old Amazon-purchased mp3s will be treated like any other files we decide to upload to the space, which can be used for normal documents, photos and very short cam-videos (HD videos can't be seriously uploaded for backing up when they take up so much room.)

    Now, even if we might be able to re-download old mp3's we bought from Amazon and then re-upload them, I THINK their programming does the free-space thing calcs only upon a new purchase.

    I think the "bone" for existing customers we're getting is the free back-up space up to 5 gigabytes and, for U.S. customers, the streaming of our mp3s.

    And if you can get a 20 G space for a year for buying a $1.99 album it might be worth it.

    As it is, the next day I bought another low-cost album because it had tracks I wanted, and got a new 20G bonus to be applied in a subsequent year when this one runs out. That's not a bad bone. The promo goes on until Dec. 31.

    Right now I have on the cloud space only the new tracks I bought and to be perfectly pollyannish, on my Comcast the software is really smoothly functioning and the sound is very good. And I still have a full 20 gigs of space I haven't put my older music on yet. I'd tend to upload only what I really want to hear when away from my music players at home or when I'm just at my computer but on the latter I can download the pieces and play them without Net access.


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