Seems like everyone has their heads in the clouds these days. With a growing emphasis on synchronizing media purchases and applications on multiple mobile devices and computers, retailer Best Buy is launching Music Cloud.
The service is available for devices powered by Apple's iOS, Google's Android, and Research In Motion's BlackBerry operating systems and requires downloading software that enables music streaming.
The desktop app copies libraries and playlists from iTunes (required) on a home computer and puts them in an account to be accessed on multiple mobile devices. It's powered by Catch Media's Play Anywhere service.
Listen on the Bus
"With Best Buy Music Cloud, your digital music lives in one place but you access it from wherever you are," according to the Best Buy web site. "Enjoy all your music when you're at a friend's house, in the , on the bus, walking to work ... virtually anywhere."
"You can store your favorite songs and playlists for when you're offline," it adds. "You can select just a single song, a playlist, or even an artist, allowing you to continue listening when you don't have coverage."
The premium version is available for $3.99 and, for now only, a demo version is available with 30-second playbacks of your songs.
Early reviews are mixed. "I quickly became familiar with the controls and was impressed with the customizability of the library," wrote Everything Mobile blogger Brian Joseph.
But PC magazine's Mark Hachman found the software "inflexible, and painful, and with some odd design decisions, to boot."
Best Buy's Music Cloud comes on the heels of Apple rolling out iCloud to synchronize media purchases across computers and its mobile devices. iCloud was the major announcement by CEO Steve Jobs at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference this month. Google and Amazon.com have also launched cloud music services.
Why is this Cloud Different?
"This is going to need a differentiation to do well in the market," said analyst Michael Gartenberg of Gartner Research. "A lot of music services have come and gone over the years. Others, like Rhapsody, still struggle to grow their user base. They need to explain the value proposition to consumers on why this model works."
But Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, said success will depend on how well Best Buy markets the idea. "Apple certainly has the high ground in traditional MP3 music sales, but cloud computing could level the playing field considerably," King said. "I'd say they have a shot."
Richfield, Minn.-based Best Buy, which has about 1,150 stores, has managed to weather the recession, unlike competitors like Circuit City, which closed its stores in 2009 but still sells online. It's increasingly looking beyond traditional retail to stay competitive.
Earlier this month, at the E3 conference, Best Buy announced a Reward Zone Gamers Club that offers points toward purchases.