By Steve O'Hear
The world isn’t exactly short of services offering to store your music collection in the cloud so you can access it from anywhere. In recent times, major players Apple (iCloud), Google (Drive), and Amazon (Cloud), have pitched up alongside early pioneers in the music locker and streaming space, such as Michael Robertson’s MP3tunes. And, perhaps feeling the heat, another burgeoning offering — AudioBox.fm — has seen a significant reboot with an approach that appears to ‘bring everything but the kitchen sink’ to the cloud-music table.
At the heart of this completely rewritten version of AudioBox is integration to a plethora of third-party cloud storage services and a desktop app to stream directly from a user’s own computer — all built around a slick HTML5 browser-based music player.
In addition to being able to sync and access tracks stored on a user’s Dropbox, Skydrive, Google Drive, or Box.net account, among others (a feature AudioBox dubs ‘Unified Library’), the service provides cloud-storage of its own on a ‘pay as you grow’-basis or through dedicated subscription tiers for those users that know more about their requirements in advance.
Streaming from YouTube and SoundCloud is also supported.
Alternatively, users can shun the cloud altogether, turning their own computer into a private music locker via AudioBox Desktop – an app they download that means their locally stored music collection can stream through the AudioBox player just as if it was in the cloud. It’s a feature we’ve seen offered elsewhere, though AudioBox stresses that it’s worked hard to do this in a secure manner, without the need for a user to open up any additional router/modem ports, and notes that the feature is a great way to “circumvent” the walls of Apple’s iTunes.
As you’d expect of any modern music player software, AudioBox supports playlists and rule-based smart playlists. There’s plenty of social media integration too. Tie-ins exist for Last.fm, Twitter, Facebook, Twitch.TV, Google+ and others, so a user can spam their friends with what music they are currently listening to, as well as track their own listening habits.
And as exhaustive a list this is, I’ve undoubtedly missed off a fair few features (such as support for Apple’s Retina display). Which begs the question: Is this ‘bring everything but the kitchen sink’ approach enough to compete with larger players, such as Apple, Amazon, Google et al.? That’s probably best left answered by the market, but either way, AudioBox’s functionality and ambition are impressive.
The are, however, holes that still need to be filled. Missing (for now) are native mobile apps for this rewritten version of the service — though I’m told that iOS, Android, and BlackBerry 10 apps are in the current pipeline, possibly just a few weeks away. There’s also an API, so third-party developers can fill any further gaps, though don’t rule out AudioBox getting there first if the current box of tricks — to use a different metaphor — is anything to go by.
To that end, the startup behind AudioBox — iCoreTech — has upped roots from its native Italy to incorporate in the U.S. and is now headquartered in New York, after securing $25K in angel funding. Meanwhile, TechCrunch has learned that the company is in late stage talks with a U.S. ISP and several other companies, including an online music store, about licensing its platform.
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