It's not often someone beats Apple to the punch, but that's exactly what Amazon.com just did with today's launch of its new cloud storage offering.
Amazon today officially launched a trio of products – Amazon Cloud Drive, Amazon Cloud Player for Web and Amazon Cloud Player for Android – which offer users 5 GB of cloud storage with Amazon, as well as the tools to play their music while on the go or from any computer.
Customers automatically start with 5 GB of Cloud Drive storage to upload their digital music library, and those who purchase an Amazon MP3 album will be upgraded to 20 GB of Cloud Drive space. The company says that new MP3s purchased from Amazon and saved directly to a user's Cloud Drive are stored for free and do not count against a customer's storage quota.
Amazon also released an upload client that will automatically detect music on a person's computer and save it to the user's Cloud Drive. Files can be stored in AAC or MP3 formats and will be uploaded to the Cloud Drive in the original bit rate. Customers can handpick particular songs, artists, albums or playlists to upload or simply upload their entire music library.
The Cloud Drive can also be used to store documents, videos and photos, and music and additional storage can be purchased.
While iPhone users won't be able to access their music from Amazon's cloud, Android users can take advantage of the company's new Cloud Player for Android app. The mobile application allows users to stream music from their Amazon Cloud Drive directly to their Android phones.
The move to a cloud-based music offering follows closely on the heels of the Amazon App Store launch and appears to put the online retailer in direct competition with Apple's iTunes service.
When taken as a whole, Amazon appears to be offering the equivalent of iTunes for Google's Android platform. Amazon now sells digital books, newspapers, magazines, movies, music and applications, all of which are available on mobile devices.
Apple has yet to announce cloud functionality for its iTunes service, but the move is believed to be in the offing. The company will complete construction this spring on a massive storage facility in North Carolina.
Shares of Amazon.com rose nearly 4 percent in early trading Tuesday to $173.32.