Let me start by saying that right now my music is not in the cloud and although I’ve had a play with both Google Music and Amazons Locker I do not use them yet (as they are not officially available in this country yet) and Apple has yet to launch its iCloud service.
There have been a number of ‘cloud’ music services making news to some degree in the last few months, including; Amazon, Google and Apple. I’ve been doing a little thinking about these services and there are a few things I’m more curious about.
Let’s start with Apple and its iTunes in the Cloud (iCloud), my understanding of this is that it’s a great offering, all your iTunes tunes in the cloud to download and play anywhere, well anywhere so longs as it’s on an Apple product of course. Interesting thing number 1, your iTunes purchases don’t count against your iCloud limit, that’s a great sell, you’ve got 20gigs of iTunes music and you can have it all in your iCloud for nothing! But the thing that has raised most interest though is iTunes Match. For your annual fee you can get all your non iTunes music into the cloud, but without all that tedious faffing about uploading it, Apple will match your music against their library and give you a nice new 256bit AAC of your dodgy old mp3. My final point here is price, Apple, once king of charging its loving little fans silly money is continuing its iPad tactic (which you have to say is winning) of beating the competition (such as it is) on price. My music collection is vast, if I were to put half of it into Amazons locker it would cost me a fortune ($200), Apple seems to be saying it will cost me $25!
Now, Amazon. This is basically a locker service. I buy space for my music, upload it and can then play it anywhere. Well in theory I can. It’s much the same with Google Music, though I don’t think anyone knows pricing yet. Here is problem nunmber one, have you ever tried to upload a lot of data from a domestic broadband connection? You’re going to find out what it means to have a different upload and download speed and boy is it going to hurt when you are trying to upload that big music collection. It could take days if not weeks. In my opinion it’s not going to happen, you just won’t do it, do you know why? Because you already have the music, it’s on your PC, it’s on your phone. The Amazon and Google music products require me and you to upload our music and that’s a painfully slow process. Apple has the winning hand here and its not as though you needed to be a genious to figure it out.
I should state at this point that it could be better than it seems if these services use some form of de-duplication. But I don’t know if they do or will. In principle if they did then once I’ve uploaded ‘Linkin Parks – A Thousand Suns’ you shouldn’t have to. That’s a greatly simplified explanation but the point is we both don’t need to upload the same thing, so if all of my music was already uploaded by several other users, all I would need to do is have my music matched up and get access to the common tunes. Oh, wait a second, we have heard that before, that’s what Apple is doing, but its licensed to do it using its own music library.
Cost and convenience, seemingly two points to Apple.
My final point is the cost of listening to the music I’ve already paid for. Let’s assume I’ve got all the music I’m interested in on the service of my choice. I now want to play it back. Play it anywhere, that’s the idea, right? How much of your 3G data plan do you think is going to be chewed up listening to a few hours of music a week? It’s not Apple or Google or Amazon who will be charging you, it’s your mobile operator. I don’t yet know how well any of these services will cache music already played, in other words, if I play an album today do I need to have it stream all over again tomorrow. Paying my mobile phone operator to stream an album once sounds painful enough, paying every time I listen to an album sounds ridiculous. Don’t forget, I already own this music. I paid for it once. Obviously this is less of an issue at when I’m hooked up to Wi-Fi somewhere, but consider how long public access Wi-Fi , a technology already creaking under the strains of today’s content to be delivered, will remain free or usable. Sit down in Starbucks, hook up to Wi-Fi, pick up your email, check in on Foursquare and stream your music to listen to and watch it all fall down as everyone else does the same thing. So in reality, what I need to be able to do is grab the music from the cloud onto my device so I can listen to it without lining my operators pockets. We will assume their network data is up to the job, but we both know thats a big issue.
So what is the alternative? Well it’s what you already have. Your device of choice has an ever increasing amount of available storage and more is available (unless its Apple) at an ever decreasing cost. My cell phone has about 100 albums on it right now, that’s a lot of music to listen to. I’m just not sure I need, or want, it in the cloud.