The tech heads amongst us would be aware of the rumours of cloud music services from Apple and Google making the rounds at the moment especially after Amazon fired the first shot in the last couple of weeks (and may have upset the record companies in the process over licensing agreements).
Apple already has the dominant platform when it comes to digital music whilst Google has failed to offer anything for Android. Instead, Google has relied upon the likes of Rhapsody and now Amazon (ironically) to provide streaming audio services for the masses. Google is lagging behind offering anything on par with the iTunes store with its Android Market and the issue with American Express cards only being accepted for applications developed by US residents still persists.
Not to single out Google, Microsoft has been offering its Zune Pass product with integration with Windows Phone 7 but one major drawback is that Microsoft has not been able to negotiate widespread availability of its subscription music service for countries outside of the USA, the UK and a handful of other countries.
Anyway, with smartphones becoming more commonplace with wider availability of 3G and Wi-Fi data it would seem that migration to cloud music is the next logical step (whether or not the record companies like it) with some notable benefits, including:
- offsite storage and backup of your content (negating the need for copious amounts of local storage and backup solutions),
- the elimination of the need to sync devices with your content (which can be very time consuming on the initial sync depending on the size of your collection).
However, there can be downsides to cloud solutions as well with the major one being locked into a cloud service as a result of using a particular mobile platform. It remains to be seen if Apple would make available any sort of iTunes cloud music service on anything other than iOS devices and Google with its Android platform. Conversely, it would remain to be seen if mobile platform owners lock out cloud services owned by competitors in the mobile space (although it would be expected that such moves would result in lawsuits).
There will still be people who find the cloud concept rather foreign in that they have come to expect something physical and/or tangible for their money (like a record, casette or a disc). As new generations embrace technology from increasingly younger ages and come to expect content anywhere at any time it makes sense that we just push bits around over networks on demand. Physical media is on the way out with the likes of Netflix in the USA being incredibly successful and YouTube being a popular medium that enables anyone to share their content with the rest of the world. Not only does this pose a problem for record companies but it also presents issues for manufacturers of disc players who stand to lose a revenue stream in the process.
At any rate, cloud music, cloud content and cloud storage may well take off in a big way this year so it will be interesting to see what unfolds.