In the past week, I’ve seen a couple of new and interesting (to me) announcements about media services in the cloud. I find the tension between keeping media and metadata about media in the cloud vs. in the device a fascinating area to peruse. Media is always better when it’s with you, of course…but when it’s brand-new, or really big (either individually, or in aggregate), or rapidly changing, it’s hard to keep a device perfectly in sync. This is where cloud services become useful. I certainly see both sides as having a part to play…the media / information has to get to me at some point to become useful, but having the Net as backup, sync, and caching tool is great.

Many of the next generation services I love (podcasting, and other video services, Democracy Player, etc.) already understand this…but occasionally, a curveball comes from unexpected locations. I saw a couple of these over the last week. Netflix’s new streaming movie service, and MP3Tunes new unlimited free music storage locker offer.

OK, ok…neither of those are exactly old-school dinosaur sheet music and buggy-whip manufacturer style BigCos. But they are businesses trying to work under fairly standard business models, so it’s a bit different than some Free Software code-sharing lovefest *grin*.

Netflix announced the streaming plan a few weeks back, but with a staged roll-out. So I’ve been checking once a week or so to see if I’m in the club. And last weekend, I was! It is Pretty Dang Cool. I already love the Netflix model…not only the keep the disc as long as you want subscription model, but also their customer service and the general feel…changing plans (even to a cheaper one) is 3 clicks in the website. So is cancelling or suspending your account; no requirement to call in and work through a phone support person’s offers of shiny baubles, etc. I get the respect vibe from Netflix, and I appreciate it.

It continues with the streaming movie option. First off, they just added it…you get it for free with your account. Clever…it makes dipping your toe in almost a no-brainer. 1 hour / month for every dollar your subscription costs; so 18 hours/month for standard 3 at-a-time sub. The install is simple (though Windows/IE only for now…*sigh*), and the quality is good in my opinion even at the basic level. I’m impressed. This is a potential game-changer; Netflix is easing us into the on demand model through their service as deftly as they can. Sure, I can get on demand at home from the cable company, too…but Netflix works with my laptop at the wifi-enabled coffee shop. And soon, I’m sure, on compact devices. Fascinating!

For the MP3Tunes change, I have to estimate the impact; I actually already have the MP3Tunes premium locker, so the new offer doesn’t apply to me. (premium lockers still have some advantages, and I got a $20/year coupon…how could I not try it?) I’ve already drunk the kool-aid here; storing my music in the cloud, as well as on my player, gives me even more super powers! Flash-based browser player, so I don’t need my player in extremis. MP3Tunes has players for devices like the Tivo already, and an open API to let developers do anything they can imagine. What a concept, eh? YOUR music. Anywhere, anytime. I like it.

As devices become cooler, more powerful, and more connected (OLPC integration, anyone?), services like these will continue to break ground AND the rules. Keep ’em coming!

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