More and more cloud services

Malaysia has its own cloud music server with the launch of WOWLOUD and initial previews look good so far. The service is still in testing phase and is open to invitations only but after being offered an inivitaion here's a summary of what I've found out so far:

- Service is ad-based and this provides 20hours of music per month (which is supposedly renewable somehow). Premium accounts with unlimited service are available at RM9.90 which I think is pretty steep since most of the music on the cloud is available for free *ahem* elsewhere. A better price point would be at RM5 per month which would total RM60 a year. Companies still hard-up with all this 99 bullshit (i.e. 3.99, 9.99 etc) should just give up and state a round figure to make lives easier.

- WOWLOUD requires its own player which is relatively lightweight when running but requires a hefty 36+MB download. Granted that they need to provide some means of DRM or encryption or control ... couldn't they just have used WMP or Quicktime as their player instead? In terms of the application, its pretty with animations and transitions .... but runs a little lethargically. After playing around with the interface you can't help but feel everything runs too slowly. Thankfully song selections are lighting quick.

- The current 'Search' function is not intuitive enough. Typing in buble resolves to bubble and bulle instead of bublé. Although not case sensitive, the search engine needs to improve on character searching with accents, umlauts etc.

- Streaming is almost instantaneous even on congested networks and quality is approximately 128kbps equivalent (don't really know what bitrate they are encoding/streaming at) but not too overladen with compression artefacts. Things may change as servers cope with load as users increase.

- Startup offerings are quite varied but of course not complete. This is set to improve once they start hosting more items but its a very good start. Genres are available and should satisfy most listeners. It does seem that classical listeners aren't very well serviced unless they like crossover classical pop and more mainstream artistes.

- They should offer 'free' streaming options to promote music that will not 'eat' up limited accounts. Playing a 3-minute song twice eats up 6 minutes (each repeat is counted), so free accounts may find themselves without service upon repeating a song.

- Glee fans can rejoice! Songs not found on their CDs are now available on the WOWLOUD service. This includes songs like Defying Gravity (the individual solo versions) and karaoke versions.

- Playback is (currently) limited to Windows and Mac platforms only but rumour has it apps for portable devices are in the pipeline.

All in all, the service is not too shabby although there is plenty of room for improvement .... now if there was only some way to combine WOWLOUD with iCloud and Amazon's cloud service.

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