Amazon Releases Cloud Player for PC, an iTunes, and Xbox Music Alternative

Amazon has released the Cloud Player for PC which it really starting to set them up as a good alternative to iTunes and Xbox Music / Zune.  The software is very simple to use and does not have a lot of features but I imagine that more is coming in future versions.  In this version you can listen to music on your computer which Amazon Cloud Player for PC will auto scan you computer for or listen to music in the cloud that is stored in Amazon Cloud Player, this includes any AutoRip or mp3’s you have purchased with Amazon.  You can also export those song to iTunes or Windows Media Player.  There are also links that take you to the Amazon MP3 Store but at this time it is not integrated into the software like iTunes or Zune PC software.  There are also no options to Sync to a device unless you export the music to Windows Media Player or iTunes.  Of course you could also use Winamp to sync music to your device of choice once you have exported it to either option.  The interface looks like other Amazon software and services out there.

Amazon Cloud Player For PC in Windows 8

Amazon Cloud Player For PC in Windows 8

One great feature I have found about the Amazon Cloud Player for PC is that is supports Windows XP Professional X64 Edition.  I know that there are still a few fans of the 64 Bit version of Windows XP and both the Zune PC software and iTunes do not install or work on that platform but this does.

I am glad Amazon made Cloud Player available for the PC and I hope to see a Windows 8/RT and a Windows Phone app soon as well.  Going forward for me I will be purchasing my music through Amazon or Xbox Music à la the Zune PC software.  If you want would like give the Amazon Cloud Player for PC a chance and see how you like it.

How to use Xbox Music in Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP, and the Desktop in Windows 8

If you are using Windows 8.X, or Windows RT then you can jump right in and start using Xbox Music today.  In Windows 8.X and Windows RT, there is a Metro app that allows you access.  And it is great, but what if you are using Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP, or want to use Xbox Music on the desktop in Windows 8.X?

Xbox Music replaces the short-lived Zune Music Pass and unfortunately it does not offer everything Zune did.  For Instance, the Zune Pass let you download ten songs a month that were yours for life.  Those who still have the Zune Pass can still do this now but the new Xbox Music Pass does not have this feature.  To get the ten free songs if you still have the Zune Pass you have to use the Zune desktop software. The Xbox Music Pass can be bought in both a 12-month subscription and a three-month subscription although it is not needed to stream music from a Windows computer but there will be ads every once in a while.

Users have two choices to use Xbox Music in Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP, or the desktop in Windows 8, you can use the website which has all the features, like streaming, or use the Zune PC software which only allows you to download the songs (it may let you stream as well if you are subscribed to Xbox Music, I have not tested this)

To use Xbox Music via an internet browser in earlier versions of Windows simply visit the Xbox Music website and log in with your Microsoft Account (Outlook, Hotmail, Xbox Live etc.) The website will ask you to agree to the Xbox Music terms of service.  Below is a screen shot of me playing my favorite new album in Xbox Music in Windows 7 using Internet Explorer.

Xbox Music Website on Windows 7

Xbox Music Website on Windows 7

The other option is to use the old Zune PC software.  It still works with Xbox Music and you can install it in Windows XP and later.  The Zune PC software does not allow you to stream music from Xbox Music for free and I am not sure if it will if you have an Xbox Music Pass I may have to test this later.  Below you can see me playing the samples of the same album on the Zune PC software in Windows 7.

Zune PC Software on Windows 7 Showing Xbox Music Content

Zune PC Software on Windows 7 Showing Xbox Music Content

So there you go two different ways to use Xbox Music on Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP, or the desktop in Windows 8.  It is nice to see Microsoft expanding support for Xbox Music.  There are even iOS, Android, and Windows Phone apps out as well.

 

Why Microsoft needs to release a new Zune

Many of you out there remember the Zune.  I, in fact, own two of them.  The Zune set out to battle against the iPod in the portable music player and honestly, is smoked the iPod.  If it had been released earlier it would have become the number one player if not a solid number two.  The problem for the Zune was not that is was a bad product, the problem was that the market was changing.

As PDA’s had proven just what portable electronics could do, it was only a matter of time before they were combined with a cell phone.  Now the first smartphone was years before this but it was not until PDA makers started adding phone capabilities to their devices in the early 2000’s this smartphone really took off here in the US and even then it has taken a decade.

Microsoft had created something called Windows Mobile which would power many early Pocket PC and PDA devices and would be used for Smartphones as well.  Windows Mobile was really meant as portable productivity software and would never be a good media playing device.  Windows Mobile did include Windows Media Player but it was a pain to use without a stylus.   In fact, when Microsoft did get media players out on the market before the Zune they were based on Windows Mobile but used the Media Center interface.  (and were called Portable Media Centers)

Dell Axim running Windows Mobile 5

Dell Axim running Windows Mobile 5

Now Apple had won over most people with the iPod and I even had an 80 Gb iPod Video (which died the other day) Apple had really jump started a portable media player marked and dominated it.  Microsoft wanted a piece of the pie and created Zune but after the Zune was released Apple was getting ready to do something that would start to change things, they released the iPhone and then a little while later released the iPod Touch which used the same OS as the iPhone.

80 Gb iPod Video

80 Gb iPod Video

These iOS devices started something, people bought them and liked that they could download apps and expand the capabilities of the devices and they were still good media players.  Now people could have an iPod that did everything they wanted to a certain extent or a phone that was also an iPod.

Microsoft noticed and responded with the Zune HD which puts any iPod Touch to shame and still does.  It too had some apps you could download but the device never caught on and people did not develop for it, but it had started something that would change the company.

32 Gb Zune HD

32 Gb Zune HD

Many fans of the Zune HD had said that Microsoft needs to release a Zune Phone, and Microsoft denied that this would happen and would instead point to its Windows Mobile Smartphones and while Windows Mobile 6.5 was a good update it was still not enough.  But Microsoft would not let the Metro interface from the Zune HD die, instead, it remade Windows Mobile into Windows Phone.  And if you are like me you know Windows Phone is magical.  It has apps, it always works, it looks fantastic, and it is user intuitive more than any other Smartphone out there.

HTC Trophy running Windows Phone 7

HTC Trophy running Windows Phone 7

Microsoft did not stop there, however, now Windows 8 is soon to be released and it too has a lot of Metro interface in it.  In addition, Microsoft is releasing its own tablets called the Surface.  You look that this device and it is clear that Microsoft can create great hardware.  Also for the first time, you see all Microsoft products working together and really being better together but there is a whole.

Microsoft Surface running Windows 8

Microsoft Surface running Windows 8

The Zune was canceled long ago, and its services are being rebranded.  There is no portable media player today, and no PDA either.  The sad thing is I do see a market for one.  I volunteer with teenagers and I see one thing they all seem to have.  iPod Touch’s!  Let’s face it Smartphones are expensive and so is the data use, it is not something you want to give to your kid, but an iPod Touch is cheaper and uses WiFi, also the games on it are cheaper than other portable game systems.  The Zune HD was a step in the right direction but it was not enough of one but Windows Phone was.  I believe that Microsoft needs to bring back the Zune using the Windows Phone software.  I really think they could get in this market! (if they price it correctly remember parents are buying stuff like this for their kids and it needs to be marketed to these pre-teens and teenagers) Heck, I would buy one, a media playing device that can do everything my phone can. (I have a Windows Phone now)

So will Microsoft do this?  Well as the Zune brand has been killed it will not be called that but I think they could call it something else or make it more of a portable gaming device and use Xbox branding.  One thing is for sure, though, if they are considering it, they are not telling anyone.

Microsoft, please do this it would be awesome and I need a new media player.