This week Apple started the beta program for the new iCloud. Hot on the heels of the US version of Spotify and not-so-hot on the heels of Amazon Sound Cloud, iCloud is the latest, and maybe best attempt to take your mp3 listening to the next level.
It wasn't long ago that streaming music graduated from traditional radio to Pandora. Pandora, like the box for which it's named, opened up a whole new world at the time, letting consumers program their own radio stations based on one key track of their choice. Problem is, you must constantly tell it thumbs up or thumbs down on Pandora's predicted tracks to manicure your station or else it can take your station to wildly different directions. But on the upside, you could really hear some great new stuff you'd not normally hear on radio.
Flash forward to earlier this year as Amazon.com launched the first "cloud" function. With Amazon Cloud Player, you could upload any tracks to Amazon's cloud and listen to them on any other device: from home to work to gym as long as it was a smart phone, tablet or computer. Great, but you had to pay depending on how much was stored. To boot, it's a clumsy, oversimplified app with very little control. Good in a pinch if you're at the gym, but good for little else.
This past summer, the savior of music fans in Europe hit the US, Spotify. Spotify is much more like iTunes, almost comically. They might as well have a round green fruitlike symbol for their logo (What? They do? Oh, right). All kidding aside, Spotify is great. With its free version you just get the app on your computer, synch your music and you can open it up on any other computer with the app and listen. The downside is you can only hear the tracks that are authorized. But still, it's a pretty wide selection. If you upgrade, you can do all this, and do it on your smart phone too, and download your mp3s remotely. So far, so good.
Then fast behind it, Apple has started teasing with their iCloud. Open only to app developers like Rogers Park's Dave Freiberg who told me, "Right now we can only use the cloud with purchased iTunes product, but eventually, possibly this fall, it will be open to your whole library."
But at what cost? Like Amazon, it appears that iTunes will now be charging users for extra storage starting at 10G. For those music junkies like us, Spotify may be the best bet. But what do I know, I'm typing this on a PC. [Editor's note: Edited on a Mac.]
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