Amazon enhances Cloud Player, takes on iTunes Match

Amazon has made some sweeping changes to its Cloud Player service, and in the process taken direct aim at Apple’s iTunes Match.

Cloud Player now provides free access to all past and future Amazon MP3 purchases (similar to Apple’s iTunes in the Cloud feature). Where things get interesting is that Amazon can also scan your iTunes and Windows Media Player libraries and match the songs on your Mac or Windows PC with those in Amazon’s 20-million-song catalog.

Songs that are matched don’t need to be uploaded, which saves you lots of time and bandwidth getting your music collection in the cloud, and matched tracks are upgraded to 256-kbps MP3 files. This is all thanks to licensing agreements reached with Sony Music Entertainment, EMI Music, Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, and more than 150 independent distributors, aggregators, and music publishers.

If this all sounds rather familiar, that’s because it’s exactly how Apple’s iTunes Match service works (albeit with AAC files instead of MP3s). The big difference is in the number of tracks you can store. iTunes Match costs $25 a year, and lets you upload or match up to 25,000 tracks (not including any purchased from the iTunes Store). That can be a sticking point for people with large collections.

Amazon’s Cloud Player Free version stores all your Amazon MP3 purchases, plus gives you space for 250 tracks, but for the same $25 a year that Apple charges Amazon offers Cloud Player Premium with room for 250,000 tracks—10 times the amount of iTunes Match. Think of it as Amazon saying, “That’s a nice business model you got there. It’d be a shame if something happened to it.”

Amazon has more to say about subscription plans and the differences between Cloud Drive and Cloud Player on a help page.

Cloud Player works on Android devices (including Amazon’s own Kindle Fire), the iPhone and iPod touch, and via a Web browser on your computer. But Amazon also announced on Tuesday that it’s bringing Cloud Player support to Roku and Sonos streaming hardware in the future.

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