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Amazon Beats iTunes in Race to the Cloud

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Since Apple's iTunes isn't giving up its title as the premiere digital music retailer anytime soon, several companies have been jockeying to take the lead in what's regarded as the future of digital music: cloud-based streaming and online storage lockers. This morning, the Amazon MP3 Store won the race with its new Amazon Cloud Player and Cloud Drive, which will allow users to upload their music libraries and access it anywhere, anytime, regardless of what computer or mobile device they are using (except the iPhone, for obvious reasons).

Services like Grooveshark and Pandora had previously introduced storage lockers, but Amazon is the first major digital company to launch the technology, beating out even Apple and Google to the finish line. Mashable posted their early review of the Cloud Drive, and it appears like Amazon's not wasting time with beta testing: "It became apparent that Amazon wasn't launching some half-baked product; Cloud Player is a fully functional, very usable streaming music player that could even make iTunes obsolete for many people."

"Make iTunes obsolete" is a chain of words that could have Apple execs sweating, but it's expected iTunes will respond with their own iPhone/iPod-compatible version within the year. (They purchased and disbanded similar cloud-based service Lala for this very reason.)

If you have a small music library, the Amazon Cloud Drive is a great option: The first five gigabytes stored are free, and from there the price escalates to plans that cost $1 a GB per year. However, in The Amp's case, we have upwards of 175 GBs of music stored on our computer, so that would come at a price tag of $200 a year (for the 200GB plan), which is way too high. We could buy a small external hard drive or a 160GB iPod for that money and tote our music libraries everywhere that way.

The price has us questioning the success of this thing, but it seems as though the entire digital music marketplace is going full force into the world of cloud-based technology regardless. Whether this tips the balance of power from iTunes to Amazon is doubtful, but one thing is definitely true: Compact discs are really screwed (again).

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