WASHINGTON'S LEADING BUSINESS MAGAZINE

Amazon launches cloud-based storage system

Some fear it could start a legal battle.

Beating rivals Google and Apple to the punch, Amazon Inc. unveiled its Cloud Drive, which allows users to upload and store their music in a “digital locker” that can be accessed from any Android phone, Android tablet, Mac or PC.

For signing up, Amazon gives customers 5 GB or about 1,000 songs worth of free storage space. If the user buys an Amazon MP3 album online, he or she gets an upgrade to 20 GB of free storage. After that, customers pay $1 per GB of space.

“Our customers have told us they don’t want to download music to their work computers or phones because they find it hard to move music around to different devices,” Amazon.com’s Bill Carr said in a press release. “Now, whether at work, home, or on the go, customers can buy music from Amazon MP3, store it in the cloud and play it anywhere.”

In addition to storing music, the Cloud allows users to upload documents, videos and pictures. The new service differs from music-streaming services like Rhapsody because the customers actually own the music they stream from the cloud.

Though most customers reacted positively to the announcement, music industry executives were stunned by the decision. Only informed of Amazon’s plans last week, many in the industry believe the service is illegal.

"I've never seen a company of their size make an announcement, launch a service and simultaneously say they're trying to get licenses," said one executive in an interview with Reuters.

Along with Cloud Drive, Amazon announced Amazon Cloud Player for Web and Amazon Cloud Player for Android. The services allow customers to play music from the various devices.