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Apple Music Cloud Takes Shape

With Amazon rushing to establish its hosted music storage service, Apple and Google have to hurry to remain relevant.

Apple is said to be ready to launch an online music storage service, a move that would beat Google to market in the ongoing race to define the parameters of consumer cloud media services.

The unannounced service will allow iTunes account holders to store their music files in an Apple data center and stream the files over an Internet connection on various devices, according to a Reuters report that cites two unnamed sources.

While Apple does not comment on unannounced products or services, its desire to improve its cloud competency is widely know. The company recently completed a $1 billion data center in Maiden, N.C., to provide hosted storage and services.

Google likewise has not provided any details about its cloud music service, which may have something to do with its changing nature. The company is said to have been rebuffed by potential music label partners, which has delayed its effort to bring its service to market.

On Friday, in what appears to be a move toward a backup plan, CNET reported that Google had resumed talks with European music streaming service Spotify. The two companies tried to negotiate a deal early last year but nothing came of those talks. Spotify has been stymied in its own effort to enter the U.S. market, also due to its inability to reach an agreement with music labels.

Both Apple and Google were caught off-guard last month when Amazon went ahead and announced its own online music storage service, Amazon Cloud Drive. The service provides 5 GB of online storage for free where customers can store purchased or uploaded music, which can be streamed over a Web browser or via an Android app. Additional storage is available for a fee, starting at 20 GB for $20 annually. New music purchases from Amazon are stored without counting against the customer's storage allotment.

The music industry was surprised by Amazon's move too: The company launched its service without making deals with music labels, based on its assumption that Cloud Drive is permissible under copyright law. That assumption, possibly based on the U.S. Supreme Court's 2009 ruling that permitted Cablevision to host customers' DVR content, will probably be challenged in court by the music industry. But if Amazon ends up having to pay for its gamble, the cost may well be less than the cost of playing it safe and trying to dislodge online customers lost to competing cloud music services as a result of tiptoeing into the market.

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