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Songbird the Open Source iTunes? 226

An anonymous reader writes "Cnet has an interesting story about a company about to release an open source alternative to iTunes. Apparently, the software can be used with a multitude of music services." From the article: "Apple's iTunes is 'like Internet Explorer, if Internet Explorer could only browse,' Lord said. 'We love Apple, and appreciate and thank them for setting the bar in terms of user experience. But it's inevitable that the market architecture changes as it matures.'"
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Songbird the Open Source iTunes?

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  • by Mononoke ( 88668 ) on Sunday December 25, 2005 @03:21PM (#14336654) Homepage Journal
    It isn't iTunes that prevents me from "buying" from any of the other online music stores. It's the clients required by those stores that prevent me.
    • by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Sunday December 25, 2005 @03:34PM (#14336690) Journal
      It isn't really the clients that prevent you, it is the companies' unwillingness to open their DRM schema without prohibitive licensing costs.

      On to the article:
      Lord cautioned that little of this has actually been built yet. The version that will be released early next year will largely be a demonstration of how a media player can be built on top of the Mozilla technology. Most of the advanced features people now expect from modern music software will be added over the course of further development, he said.
      So this is just a product announcement.
      How does this all make money? It's not yet clear. The company's business model is a work in progress too, Lord said.

      One possibility is selling the technology to companies that want to create their own music store, but don't want to build their own software to do it...
      Nothing to see here, move along....
      • So this is just a product announcement.

        True, but it's a product announcement from Rob Lord, one of the two guys who started IUMA way back near the beginning of the web age. A product announcement from somebody with a history of creating products that were ahead of their time is worth paying attention to. He was running a hugely successful online music site 5 years before most of the world had even considered the idea.

        As a former competitor of Rob's, I'd take him seriously; he knows what he's doing,

    • Songsuck (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I'd feel more sympathy to this cause if it wasn't for the fact that all the other music stores* sell DRMed content that only works on Windows. Apple at least had the consideration to get iTunes working nicely under Windows. WMP still sucks under the Mac (typical of Microsoft though).

      * - Well save for the oddball one that sells actual MP3s of some band that I've never heard of and doesn't sound that particularly good or a particular Russian one who gives no money to the artist at all.
    • It isn't iTunes that prevents me from "buying" from any of the other online music stores. It's the clients required by those stores that prevent me.

      I'm sure plenty of stores would love to sell songs to iTunes users using Apple's FairPlay DRM. But Apple won't license the DRM, effectively shutting them out. If they try reverse engineering the DRM, Apple will just shut them out (see: Real). So they mostly turn to Microsoft, who seems to be willing to license their DRM'd Windows Media formats to just about a
  • Amen (Score:5, Funny)

    by layer3switch ( 783864 ) on Sunday December 25, 2005 @03:25PM (#14336665)
    "Apple's iTunes is 'like Internet Explorer, if Internet Explorer could only browse,' Lord said."

    Praise the Lord!
  • Re: title (Score:2, Interesting)

    by viksit ( 604616 )
    Well, its about time someone did do it. Its got immense possibilities - but how would music stores react to it? For all you know, they might (as in the case of IE) have ActiveX controls/or propreitary media formats which tell you to go and use their own software.. or activate some locks/feature constrictions which would be solved given time, but would still render the service unusable.

    I remember Fairplay (or was it Playfair), the tool which allowed encoded Apple music files to be played on any MP3 playe
  • by Doktor Memory ( 237313 ) on Sunday December 25, 2005 @03:32PM (#14336687) Journal
    ...I give them about 5 minutes post-release before they are hit with the mother of all cease-and-desist notices from Apple Legal.

    I know that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but come on here. At least try to make your cut-and-paste jobs a bit less obvious.
    • It's still pre-alpha. I'd expect they'll get a unique look by the release.
    • Given that a lot of the iTunes interface was copied from other sources as well, this would just be another testament to Apple's corporate philosophy: once we copy it, it's ours.
    • These are prerelease screens everyones getting so hopped up about. Who are any of us to say what the later incarnations are to look like? It looks to me like he's driving the point home that while he respects iTunes innovation he feels like they've chosen lock-in over broader useablity. Understandably, but we; the users; end up losing. He's got a lot of attention with the stunt, but by no means does he A) sound like a stupid person B) is the interface tied to being iTunes-like. It makes sense to me to be a
    • The screenshots look alot to me like Musicmatch Jukebox, which was around before iTunes and the iTMS.
    • by catwh0re ( 540371 ) on Sunday December 25, 2005 @07:43PM (#14337390)
      There was xTunes, then that turned into Sumi (funnily ignorant to Apple having the "sosumi" sound effect.) Plus there are numerous other iTunes copies out there, the reality is there is actually no demand for them and that is why these projects have little interest unlike for example the Mozilla project.

      iTunes is not similar to Internet Explorer what so ever, unless you're on a Macintosh, you need to download it or install iTunes manually, it's a choice you make.
      You don't have to buy an iPod or use the iTunes Music Store. In fact you can happily go by using your computer and never have to know neither Apple nor iTunes.

      Internet Explorer was the at the centre of a monopoly, it came preinstalled, full of bugs and consumers were crying for alternatives for almost 10 years before the Firefox project came and provided a reasonable "answer".

      There are very few people out there crying for an iTunes alternative, the iTunes popularity is rather justly earnt and is only used by people who are interested in listening to music on an iPod or purchasing music from iTMS. Consumers aren't demanding that iPods or iTunes work with other online music stores or other music programs. In fact the only people I actually hear complaining are Real and Creative.

      The other online stores are -amazingly- bad, poorly laid out, with pricing models that reflect one theme "greed", the model of "download as many or as few songs as you like, but pay for them until the day that you die otherwise we take them back from you" is ridiculous.

      But not as ridiculous as the excessively under-designed garbage pieces of electronics they want you to play them on, where they franchise that a 64kbps Windows media file as a decent alternative to 128kbps AAC audio.

      So if those are my "choices", I'm pretty pleased to be giving my attention to iTunes and Apple, as they certainly seem to have a much better clue about what they're doing and are satisfying what I'm asking for in technology vs. music and willing to upgrade their product regardless of what the competition is up to.

    • ...I give them about 5 minutes post-release before they are hit with the mother of all cease-and-desist notices from Apple Legal.

      Look-and-feel in software UI doesn't give a copyrightable protection. Unless Apple has actual, patentable, patented innovations in their interface, they can't require anything but filing the names off.
  • No thank you, I already have amaroK. I get music by running wget recursively. amaroK does everything I could wish for. It even comes preinstalled with KDE ditros like SuSE.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    But this gets me wondering, maybe the web browser shouldn't be splitting up content? On one hand we have Google with tools like AJAX trying to bring everything together in one browsing experience (Video, maps, mail, etc.). On the other, you have extra programs like iTunes and Thunderbird. For both experiences, the kernel is having content being independent of the medium. I would say that having everything blended together is a much better internet experience. Maybe this is what Microsoft was trying to do in
  • by Anonymous Coward
    This program should be a lesson for everyone who tries to claim that Apple software is nothing special with just a pretty UI skin that anyone could make.

    I really hope Apple drops their hardware and migrates Cocoa to Windows and Linux.

    The Microsoft and Linux APIs are so jarringly hideous and clunky it is painful to have to use for anyone who has grown up on OS X.

    If you are a Windows or Linux application developer, please, if you don't have a Mac or haven't really spent time with OS X. Pick something like a b
    • Huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by bradleyland ( 798918 ) on Sunday December 25, 2005 @04:34PM (#14336838)
      The Microsoft and Linux APIs are so jarringly hideous and clunky it is painful to have to use for anyone who has grown up on OS X.

      If you are a Windows or Linux application developer, please, if you don't have a Mac or haven't really spent time with OS X. Pick something like a button or text field AND STUDY IT. And I mean really look closely at it and nothing else. Note the timing, shading, feedback, action, EVERYTHING.

      First, GUI != API.

      API is the application programming interface; usually a collection of objects, which have propteries and methods you can use or extend or override. The API is the roadmap to these items.

      As for the OS X button/text fields vs Linux & Windows button/text fields... are you serious? Study them? Timing, action? Let's get real here, it's a bitmap swap. The OS X versions have a pretty glass look to them, the Windows versions look like smooth beveled plastic, and Linux ones look however you want them to look.

      I love my Mac, and I think it has the best looking operating system of the three mentioned, but I don't really see where the interface elements are better in any other regard than their outward appearance.
    • OpenStep (Score:3, Insightful)

      by metamatic ( 202216 )
      I really hope Apple drops their hardware and migrates Cocoa to Windows and Linux.

      A more realistic goal would be for Linux to drop KDE and GNOME and focus on GNUStep. That way you could have a free open source equivalent of Cocoa, with source code compatibility.

      Of course, it'll never happen. Too many egos are invested in going in other directions.

  • Uh, wait a second.. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Aren't amaroK [] and Rhythmbox [] the open source iTunes?

    • Aren't amaroK and Rhythmbox the open source iTunes?

      Neither amaroK nor Rhythmbox works in Windows.

      I'm forced to use Windows for listening to music at work and also at home, because ALSA doesn't deem it important to properly support ALC850 in nforce 4. I'm looking forward to proper Open Source music player for windows.

  • News.Context (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Sunday December 25, 2005 @03:40PM (#14336709) Journal
    I like the box off to the left side that helps put things in context
    What's new:
    A five-person company called Pioneers of the Inevitable is taking aim at Apple's iTunes with music software called Songbird that's based on much of the same underlying open-source technology as the Firefox Web browser.

    Bottom line:
      The first technical preview of Songbird isn't expected until early next year, but it has already stirred up a hornet's nest of online critics and supporters on blogs and even on the company's own Web site.
    I'll be more impressed if they code something that isn't buggy and prone to exploits, than if they manage to one up iTunes.
    • by msimm ( 580077 )
      Sounds like he's got some experience aside from the mouth-piecing. Your's is pure Slashdot quality speculation/nay-saying. Forgive me for not being as impressed. We need something like this and they have something of a background. I wish them the best and I'll hold my judgement until I can noodle around with it.
      • An open standard compatible with all mp3 players would give me a chance to retire my iPod for something potentially better.

        • An open standard compatible with all mp3 players would give me a chance to retire my iPod for something potentially better.

          Why would you need to retire your iPod? iPods have played MP3s since day one. Sounds like you don't even own one and you're just another SlashTroll.
  • MusicKube (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Piroca ( 900659 ) on Sunday December 25, 2005 @03:40PM (#14336710)

    I guess that MusikCube [] fits better in the description of an "open source iTunes" counterpart.

    • Re:MusicKube (Score:4, Informative)

      by rm69990 ( 885744 ) on Sunday December 25, 2005 @04:01PM (#14336757)
      I love Musikcube, best simple music/CD player for Windows. I wish they would port it to Linux, all the other media players on Linux feel bloated and unintuitive compared to Musikcube. No fancy, uneeded effects. Everything completely in one single window. Built-in search. Built-in CD Ripper. But it stays out of your way. All of this out of the box. I highly suggest anyone interested to try it. [] It is GPL too (or maybe it was BSD, don't remember, you'll have to check).
    • MusikCube rocks!

      Anyone who is looking for a lightweight player for Windows should look no further. Simple, elegant, efficient.
    • Re:MusicKube (Score:2, Insightful)

      by big_groo ( 237634 )

      Windows only? C'mon.

    • Somewhat off topic, but does anyone here still use Winamp, and like it? I know I do, and I don't really have any reason to switch at the moment...

      Maybe some day when I'm bored I'll take a look at iTunes, but for now, I just need a fast, sleek player that lets me control my playlist. Winamp fits that for me.
      • I just need a fast, sleek player that lets me control my playlist. Winamp fits that for me.

        How is it at loading up your iPod?

        • I don't use any software other than Windows Explorer to load up my RCA Lyra, since it appears purely as a USB storage device, like any other disk drive. I just copy the files.

          I bet the same can't be said for an iPod, am I right?
  • by maztuhblastah ( 745586 ) on Sunday December 25, 2005 @03:42PM (#14336715) Journal
    Anyone remember Flock []? Totally magical! Will change the way you browse the web! Will shine your shoes and feed your cat!

    Or not. It's essentially Firefox plus some random blog-editing tools and a "pretty" interface. Songbird, IMHO, will be much the same. So far the only feature that people like is the "URL Slurper"... which basically amounts to wget recursively. Don't get me wrong... I'm all for competition, especially when it's Open-Source vs. Closed-Source. That said, I can't see much worth getting hyped up about: the interface is nothing new (but more cluttered than iTunes), the "URL Slurper" isn't anything the world hasn't seen with wget and curl, and I think the project might be at risk legally.

    The optimist in me will make sure I download and try it the first day that it's available. The pessimist reminds me that getting hyped up will make me less receptive to a good product.
  • Another serious piece of software coming out of the OSS community and something really needed, probably more then most people thought (myself included). I use all the services they include in their pre-release screens. A lot. I can't see how this wouldn't be a win-win. Even if Apple gets sore about it. Emusic has worked to maintain a Linux client, but its been getting pretty rough. This is a great resource that will make purchasing music simpler. Isn't that what everybody wants anyway? Labels win, artists
  • About that... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by theheff ( 894014 )
    "We love Apple, and appreciate and thank them for setting the bar in terms of user experience."

    Apple might want a little more than a simple "thank you"... money talks.

    • Skinnable baby.. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by msimm ( 580077 )
      Don't get so hung up on looks. Its a browswer, look at the url-bar. Seems to me they've pushed the apple thing for a number of reasons, but there is no lock-in with the look or style of the thing. Its not even in *any* form of release at this point and it sounds to me like he's trying to generate some buzz, maybe get some developer support. I hope he does because if you look past the immediate iTunes comparisons you'll see it so much more really. He thanks Apple for showing what good design can look like, b
      • Also, whenever a programmer thinks, "Hey, skins, what a cool idea", their computer's speakers should create some sort of cock-shaped soundwave and plunge it repeatedly through their skulls. - makali []

        HA! I fully support your proposed audio-cock technology. - jwz []
  • by B5_geek ( 638928 ) on Sunday December 25, 2005 @04:19PM (#14336801)
    Make an add-on for Amarok.
    IMHO it is second to none when it come to managing your music collection. Imagine adding an optional Buy-Here tab with x+1 companies to buy your music from.

    I have never bought music online, I never will. I would disable any tab that I saw like that in Amarok.

    But my point is; Itunes is/was a good jukebox style player. iTunes has it's issues, alas it's not available natively for Linux.

    Amarok excells as a music center, AND runs natively in Linux.

    • by msimm ( 580077 ) on Sunday December 25, 2005 @04:48PM (#14336866) Homepage
      Its kind of easy to get caught up with the iTunes comparisons. But if you look hard you'll see a url-bar. Its a browser/rss feed-reader with integrated music play/download/management features. Its a damn slick idea. If you read a little bit more about it (either the CNET article or on the songbird site itself) you'll see they've got some great plans to take advantage of the Mozilla code end of things, custom music stores, easy web-based integration for individuals/start-ups/stores.

      The project is ambitious. But if it succeeds, it could change the face of the web, at least the music portion of it in a way that's really benificial to us all (musicians included).

      Amarok is a great project, but its approach is a a single platform media player/manager. This is a media outlet/portal, with management thrown in for excellent measure.

      Of course it may never happen, or it could flop. According to the website we'll all have at least a year to wait before we can declare it anything other then an interesting project. My hat's off to them.
  • Songbird? (Score:2, Funny)

    by winphreak ( 915766 )
    With names like Thunderbird, Firefox, and Songbird, I think we may just run out of open source animals.

    Seriously, how many dead animals will we install linux on?
  • by 4D6963 ( 933028 )
    "And don't forget, just a few years ago, who would have counted on the success of the Firefox browser?"

    It's not the same thing. Firefox was made by Mozilla, who made Netscape, IE's past only concurrent. "Firefox vs. IE" is the same "Mozilla vs. Microsoft" that's been on since the first release of Internet Explorer. here, MS's rival only re-bore from its hashes under a new name.

  • Why This Can't Work (Score:5, Informative)

    by Phroggy ( 441 ) * <slashdot3&phroggy,com> on Monday December 26, 2005 @03:52AM (#14338751) Homepage
    Others have rightly pointed out that Apple's legal department will run this into the ground, but they've missed the most important reason why:

    When you purchase a song from the iTunes Music Store, the AAC file is downloaded without FairPlay DRM encryption. The iTunes software adds the FairPlay DRM while downloading, encrypting the file with your iTMS account ID. An open-source client wouldn't do this (or at least wouldn't have to, if it could). Apple would be in a heap of trouble with the record labels if they allowed this software to exist.

    The only way to make it work is to move the encryption process from the client to the server, which would significantly increase Apple's costs (in addition to the huge CPU requirements of encrypting every song they sell, they probably wouldn't be able to use Akami's distribution network anymore).
  • What I see is (Score:2, Informative)

    by Ilgaz ( 86384 )
    Some group of thiefs stole iTunes interface and GUI. Making it opensource does not matter.

    Apple actually bought the iTunes interface. Full details at [] . Good read for all developers.

    Here is what Apple PAID FOR []
    • Um, the iTunes interface is just a column browser. The column browser is actually a Xerox design that showed up in Smalltalk in the late '70s, along with the windowing user interface that Apple uses. Column browsers are widely used for both hierarchical and relational information in virtually every part of the computer industry, and the idea that Apple owns the concept of using column browsers in music players is ludicrous.

      Not to mention that there's at least one bloke who claims he's got an earlier patent

Can anyone remember when the times were not hard, and money not scarce?