Amazon has launched a cloud-based music locker service called Cloud Drive, which gives the online books trader an early mover's advantage over Apple and Google.

Cloud Drive, described by Amazon as your hard drive in the cloud, enables users to store music, videos, documents and photos on Amazon's servers. Stored music can be played using Amazon Cloud Player on a web browser and on Android devices.

Amazon Cloud Player currently supports Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari and Chrome. Files in MP3 and AAC formats can be uploaded to Cloud Drive. Also songs purchased from Amazon MP3 can be directly saved in Cloud Drive for free and do not take up storage space.

The service offers 5GB storage for free and can be increased to 20 GB for $20 a year. However, if a user purchases an album from Amazon MP3 Store, the user gets 20GB free storage for one year. According to Amazon, 5 GB space can store up to 1,000 songs, 2,000 photos and 20 minutes of HD video. The storage capacity can be enhanced up to 1,000 GB for $1,000 per year.

The service also enables users to search, browse, form playlists, shuffle, increase volume and other features. Files can be uploaded using Amazon MP3 Uploader application. The application can be directly launched from the Amazon Cloud Player.

Files not supported include Digital Rights Managed (DRM) files, ordinary files of over 100MB in size, ringtones, podcasts, audio books, and other non-music audio files. Unsupported file formats are .wma, .m4p, .wav, .ac3, .ogg, .ape and .flac.

From a strategic point of view, Amazon has trumped both Apple and Google to gain an early mover's advantage in offering cloud-based music locker service. The launch follows Monday's report from TechCrunch which said that Apple will delay the launch of its upgraded iOS 5 citing cloud integration as one of the reasons.

In February WSJ reported Apple could make its MobileMe service free which could serve as a locker for multimedia files. Earlier Gigaom reported that Apple COO Tim Cook had confirmed that the $1 billion data center in North Carolina is intended to support its Mobile Me and iTunes.

While Apple is still in the process of fine-tuning its cloud-strategy and putting the infrastructure together, Amazon has announced its Cloud Drive service, as it has a huge server farm already in use for cloud-services.

Also CNET recently reported that Google is in the process of testing its streaming service Google Music. It was earlier reported that Google would launch the service in 2010. It was earlier reported that Google was negotiating for the right to store users' existing music libraries on the company's servers.

Amazon is ahead of Google and Apple in cloud-computing with its EC2 - Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud. Thus, adding it holds an edge over other companies, especially when it comes to cloud infrastructure.

Recently, Amazon launched its Android Appstore with about 4,000 apps. The appstore plunge by Amazon was seen as an attempt to compete with the Android market. Amazon's foray into music locker and apps store domains is part of its strategy to create an ecosystem around its content. While it has an eReader, Kindle, to drive its eBooks market, the streaming music facility which can be accessed from any browser and Android device will allow it to reach a wider market with its content.