Amazon Steps up Cloud Offering, Gives Unlimited Music Storage (for a Limited Time)
Amazon Steps up Cloud Offering, Gives Unlimited Music Storage (for a Limited Time)

As Apple's cloud service looms and Spotify is about to pounce on the U.S. market, Amazon is giving customers more music storage for less money. The company announced Wednesday that Cloud Drive now allows for unlimited storage of MP3 and AAC files for as little as $20 a year and free storage for all Amazon MP3 purchases. In addition, Cloud Drive for the Web has been optimized to offer streaming playback on Safari web browser for iPad.

The offer of unlimited storage is good for only a limited time, however. And the unlimited part of the offer covers only music files, not pictures or HD movies. If you're using Cloud Drive to store anything other than music, the old rates and storage limits still apply. So, for example, a $20-for-20 GB annual plan comes with unlimited music storage but just 20 GB of storage for all other types of files.

The entry-level Cloud Drive storage plan is still the free 5 GB plan. The unlimited storage offer kicks in at the 20 GB plan. There are also plans for 50 GB, 100 GB, 200 GB, 500 GB and 1,000 GB. But if only music will be stored in the account, the 20 GB plan will suffice.

Apple's iTunes Match service, to be launched this fall, will cost $24.99 per year and will have a limit of 20,000 songs. Google's Music Beta is free of charge and currently limits the user to 20,000 songs and a 250MB limit per individual song.

But Amazon still has some work to do before Cloud Drive is ready for prime time. Cloud Drive requires the user to upload each song to an individual account. In effect, Amazon dedicates server space for each Cloud Drive user. This approach allowed Amazon to launch Cloud Drive without licenses from record labels but results in long upload time.

iTunes Match will have a scan-and-match feature that quickly scans the user's hard drive and matches those songs with the user's cloud-based account. Apple secured the required licenses from record labels for this service. Users will be spared from long upload times. Only songs that do not match will be uploaded individually. But that should not be much of an inconvenience since Apple claims it has 18 million songs in its catalog for the matching process.