Amazon made a bold move several weeks ago when it launched a online locker allowing users to store music in the cloud. It offered 5 gigabytes of free storage to entice users and tied the service to its MP3 store, but did not bother to get the permission of the major labels, who have been negotiating for the last year with Google and Apple to launch exactly this kind of service. Google quickly followed suit, rolling out its own music locker during the IO developer conference.
But the buzz this weekend has been about Apple, which has reportedly locked down deals with three of the four major labels. Having a service approved by the major record labels is key, because it would mean Apple can help consumers avoid the lengthy process of uploading every song in their collection individually. Instead, Apple can simply scan users collection in iTunes and approve those tracks to be played from the cloud.
Of Google and Amazon, Eliot Van Buskirk wrote over at Wired. “”Those services are hampered by a lack of record label licensing, and as such, they are essentially glorified hard drives: You have to upload every song yourself — a process that can literally take up to a week, hogging your computer’s processor and your internet connection’s bandwidth, as I have discovered by testing similar services.”
To Buskirk, this seems like a tactical calculation on Apple’s part. By waiting for Amazon and Google to launch without liscenses, it was able to get better leverage negotiating with the labels. It also enabled Apple to read the early reviews and see where the pain points developed with consumers. Just as it did with the MP3 player, Apple is entering the market late, but with a superior offering.
It’s clear that the RIAA won’t relax its campaign against digital file sharing, even if gives a pass or partnership to the titans of the industry. The music industry bully just went after Box.net, a fairly innocuous service for storing any kind of file in the cloud.