Online retail giant Amazon has launched a new internet service for people to store and have mobile access to music, videos and photos.

It comes in two parts; Amazon Cloud Drive and Amazon Cloud Player.

The first lets you upload and store files on Amazon's servers, which you can get to from a web browser on a Mac or PC.

The second lets you play songs you have uploaded on your computer or on a smartphone that runs Google's Android operating software.

The "cloud" in the names refers to the practice of storing content online and streaming it to a computer over the internet.

The US launch puts Amazon ahead of Google and Apple, which are believed to be working on similar services.

While Amazon will charge for the Cloud Drive service, it is offering anyone with an Amazon account five gigabytes of free storage. That is less space than on the smallest iPod Touch, but it is likely to woo plenty of users who might later decide to pay for more storage space.

The company, which already runs a commercial online storage service called Amazon S3, decided to introduce a consumer cloud service to make it easier for customers to access digital content no matter where they are, music director Craig Pape said.

The offerings could also benefit Amazon's bottom line: The company realised customers were hesitant to purchase MP3s at work because they did not want them tied to their office computer, Mr Pape said, so Cloud Drive and Cloud Player may drive more impulse music shopping.

"At the end of the day we're trying to delight customers, but we're trying to sell more music, too," he said.

The web-based Cloud Player offers simple controls - you can play, pause or skip tracks, or build your own playlists.

For users who want to listen while on the go, an updated version of the Amazon MP3 digital music-buying app will include Cloud Player, letting them play music they've stored with Amazon's service on their phones as well as tunes that are already on their handsets.