Guy Adams: Technophobes will make heavy weather of using it

The US view
  • @guyadams

Like most citizens of the developed world, I long ago took my CDs off a dusty shelf, transferred their contents to ITunes, and packed them in the attic. Since then, my MP3 collection has ballooned into a 6000-song, 35 gigabyte monolith, eating-up space on my hard drive. Some days, my laptop runs so slowly that I feel like it would be quicker to communicate via carrier pigeon than email.

The Cloud Player promises to solve this problem, by usurping the computer’s role in storing your music. Your songs become a bit like the contents of a Facebook or Hotmail account: accessible from anywhere you can find the internet. If your laptop is stolen, or you spill a mug of coffee over its keyboard, they’ll remain untouched, in the warm embrace of Amazon’s vast digital storage network.

But does it actually work? Since I live in the USA, I’m at least able to try the service out (legal issues mean Britain must wait a while). Setting up an account is as easy as dishonestly clicking on a few icons saying that you’ve read “terms and conditions.” Filling that account with music, on the other hand, proved beyond my ken: it requires users to know where actual sound files are stored on their hard drive. Call me a luddite, but I hadn’t a clue.

After telephoning an acquaintance who happens to be under the age of thirty, I eventually got the system working. In hindsight, it wasn’t hard to use. But if you’re only computer literate (as opposed to computer savvy) then it isn’t completely straightforward, either. Once things are up and running, music plays quickly and relatively crisply. If I were to transfer my entire collection online, Amazon would want $40-a-year for the privilege.

Is that worth it? For me, probably not. And here’s why: I mostly listen to music via either an Ipod, or an Iphone. And thanks to the ongoing froideur between Apple and Amazon, both devices are incompatible with the Cloud Player. It can only “synch” with Android phones, and the like.

Some time soon, Apple will launch a rival service, which will solve the Ipod problem and probably look sexier than Amazon’s (which has a distinctly bookish design). If past form is anything to go by, the service will also be more straightforward for the technologically challenged to get up and running. So I'd wait for the Steve Jobs version before committing to a "cloud" - for as he's often said, the important thing in the tech game isn't to be first, it's to be the best.