Amazon's cloud music service has finally matched Apple's "scan and match" feature.
In June, CNET first reported that Amazon had obtained the licenses from the four major record companies to offer scan and match. The Web's largest retailer made it official this afternoon by announcing that starting today, users of the company's Cloud Player no longer have to suffer through the arduous task of uploading each individual song to their cloud music lockers.
For $25 per year, Amazon premium service will scan a user's hard drive and match the music found there to the more than 20 million tracks stored on the company's servers. Amazon will then stream the songs from its servers to any Web-connected device, including any Android device or iPhone, a user chooses to listen on. In addition, the merchant said it will automatically store songs previously purchased from the company.
For the $25 price, users can store up to 250,000 songs -- 10 times more than iTunes. Amazon is also offering a free version which will allow users to store up to all songs purchased from the retailer and 250 songs obtained elsewhere.
The move marks a small but important shift in strategy for Amazon. Amazon launched an unlicensed service in March 2011 and beat Apple's iTunes and Google Music to the cloud. But the labels were miffed. They believed that the best possible user experience could only be achieved with a fully licensed service.
Many industry analysts have said for a long time that storing digital media via Internet services rather than on local hard drives represents the future. It remains to be seen how much the public will embrace cloud storage. Amazon's adoption would seem to be a positive sign, however.
It seems logical that the company would have forgone licensing the service had it believed Apple's scan-and-match was a dud or had Amazon's unlicensed offering done well.
Here are more details from Amazon's press release:
Amazon MP3 purchases -- including music that customers purchased in the past -- are automatically saved to Cloud Player, which means that customers have a secure backup copy of the music they buy from Amazon, free of charge.
Amazon scans customers' iTunes and Windows Media Player libraries and matches the songs on their computers to Amazon's 20 million song catalog. All matched songs -- even music purchased from iTunes or ripped from CDs -- are instantly made available in Cloud Player and are upgraded for free to high-quality 256 Kbps audio. Music that customers have already uploaded to Cloud Player also will be upgraded.
Any customer with a Kindle Fire, Android device, iPhone, iPod touch, or any Web browser --and soon, a Roku streaming player or Sonos home entertainment system -- can play their music anywhere.
Cloud Player is available in a free tier and a premium tier. Cloud Player Free customers can store all MP3 music purchased at Amazon, plus import up to 250 songs from their PC or Mac to Cloud Player, all at no charge. Cloud Player Premium customers can import and store up to 250,000 songs in Cloud Player for an annual fee of $24.99.