Amazon to launch iTunes rival

Amazon has struck deals with the four major US record labels to create a new online music service that lets users buy and store tunes in the cloud. Look out, Apple.

by Rebecca Burn-Callander
Last Updated: 19 Aug 2013

Amazon’s existing cloud music offering – part of the Amazon Cloud Drive - has lagged behind iTunes because it requires users to upload songs (laboriously, one by one) to Amazon’s servers. But the new app will let listeners sync tunes across multiple devices and access songs stored on remote servers, putting the new service in direct competition with Apple.

The ink has now dried on Amazon’s deals with Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, EMI and Warner Music Group, which will enable Amazon’s new service to use ‘scan and match’ technology- the same technology offered by iTunes – to access a central database of music and match users’ cloud-hosted music libraries with their real-world ones.  In layman’s terms – your online library will hold the same music as the one on your computer, but rather than uploading songs from your machine – time-consuming and data-heavy – it accesses them from a single central mega-library.

This technology is a real coup for Amazon, and puts the online emporium ahead of new-kid-on-the-music-block Google. Back in November, Google launched its own rival to iTunes: Google Music but it was only able to sign up three of the four major record labels. It was snubbed by Warner Music Group, leaving tracks by major artists including Led Zeppelin and The Doors off the menu.

Amazon’s new music service is expected to launch in July in the US, with Europe to follow swiftly afterward. Details of the payment model are still sketchy – Amazon has yet to release an official announcement – but it is understood that users who buy music through Amazon's music store will be given a certain amount of free storage, with an annual fee available to those who need more space.

And here’s why Apple execs may be feeling a little shaken: the new Amazon service will run on Android as well as iOS devices (iTunes for Android is known to be rather glitchy, with protected file formats rendering some music files and all video files unreadable). So Amazon is extending its hugely successful all-things-to-all-men model into the music space. Let’s see how Apple, with its famously closed-door model, reacts to the threat…

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