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Amazon has launched a service that lets you store music on its cloud servers and access it from anywhere through a Web browser or app. The service marks the first time a major digital music retailer has allowed users such flexibility.

Amazon Cloud Drive offers users five gigabytes of storage for free with the option to upgrade (the highest level is 1,000 gigabytes of storage for $1,000 per year). Music stored in the Cloud Drive can be accessed via a Web browser, or using a Cloud Player app for Android mobile devices.

Amazon describes Cloud Drive as a music platform, but the service can also be used to store photos and video. That said, there are benefits for users who buy mp3 music files from Amazon, including a free upgrade to the 20-gigabyte plan, and the right to store Amazon mp3s without having them count against the user’s allotment.

Experts say that Amazon’s new service will herald a wave of similar services from major companies. “It’s about time,” says Aram Sinnreich, an assistant professor of journalism and media studies at Rutgers University and the author of Mashed Up, a new book about digital music. “Cloud music services have been a mythological beast for a decade.”

Sinnreich says many other companies will follow Amazon’s lead. “This is the first mainstream credible effort in this direction,” he says, but he expects Apple and Google to follow suit soon. In fact, both companies are already rumored to be working on their own cloud music services.

Many expected Apple to be the first to offer this type of service—especially after the company bought the music-streaming startup Lala, which already had much of the required technology in place, in December 2009.

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Tagged: Web, policy, music, cloud, storage, streaming data, mobile data plans

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