Peter Kafka

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MSpot Launches Cloud-Based Music Ahead of Google, Apple

What if you could move your music collection to the cloud so that you could listen to it anywhere, on whatever device you wanted, whenever you wanted?

You may be able to get that via Google (GOOG) and Apple (AAPL) one day, and both companies have talked about the idea with the music industry. But in the meantime, mobile entertainment start-up mSpot says it can offer the same thing.

The basic idea: You can take any music you own, as long as it’s in an unencrypted file format, and move it to mSpot’s servers, then play it back on different devices–your PC, your phone–on demand. The service is free for the first two gigabytes of music you upload, and mSpot charges for more storage: An additional 10 gigabytes (the equivalent of 8,000 songs) costs $2.99, and 100 gigs (80,000 songs) goes for $13.99.

One big caveat: The service, which Google showed off at its developer conference last month, supports only Android handsets. So this won’t get your music to your iPhone, at least for now.

Another big caveat: MSpot doesn’t have licenses with any of the big music labels. CEO Daren Tsui says his company doesn’t need agreements with the labels to let users stream music they own from the cloud, but Big Music disagrees. So unless they can reach an agreement, Tsui and mSpot could find themselves fending off a lawsuit like the one EMI filed against Michael Robertson’s MP3Tunes, which offers a similar service.

However, mSpot’s biggest challenge probably won’t come from the labels, but from competitors. Tsui is basically offering the “iTunes in the cloud” scenario that people would like to see from Apple, but without Apple’s cooperation. If Apple gets around to offering its own version, that would make it awfully difficult.

And Google seems even more interested in launching its own version of the same service, but without mSpot’s help. At the same Google I/O conference where mSpot launched in private beta, Google announced it had acquired Simplify Media, which makes software designed to stream music to mobile phones–news that took the mSpot people by surprise.

But those are future-tense moves, and mSpot is open to the public this morning. Will that be enough of a head start?

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work