Can Open Source Songbird Compete with iTunes?: Page 2

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In a hint of what may become a showdown with iTunes somewhere down the line, Songbird add-ons also include a tool for iPod support. According to the developers, this add-on will allow a user to play songs from an iPod's library and playlist through Songbird and to synchronize the device with the Songbird library. Songs also can be copied from your iPod.

In addition to the six preinstalled add-ons, Songbird can access 70 more add-ons. We are especially keen on LyricMaster, which will automatically display the words to a song if embedded via metadata, or else fetch the lyrics if necessary. We find this to be a very cool addition, as we can never remember and/or decipher the words to many songs.

All these bells and whistles have come about through deep collaborations in the open source community. Members of the Songbird development team (they refer to themselves as Pioneers of the Inevitable) have worked on a few media players and Internet applications you may be slightly familiar with, including Winamp, Yahoo! Music Jukebox, Netscape Navigator, and Firefox.

Core development is being supported by Sequoia Capital, Atlas Venture, and a group of angel investors. The Pioneers credit "thousands" of developers and contributors who have helped produce add-ons and patches.

For those of technical bent, a few noteworthy Songbird features include support for MP3, FLAC, and Vorbis on all platforms; WMA and WMA DRM on Windows; and AAC and Fairplay on Windows and Mac. GStreamer serves as the main media playback system across all platforms. The app currently runs on Windows (Vista and XP), Linux and Mac (OS X), and supports automatic updates.

The developers promise further tools in the near future. They say they'd like to expand device support, which right now does not include Apple iPhones, iPod Touch, and Microsoft Zune devices.

While Songbird supports reading from and writing metadata to many music file formats, developers are in beta with the ability to retrieve additional metadata from popular lookup services. Likewise there is a beta effort to fetch album art. Another enhancement would allow users to subscribe to music blogs and download music directly to their libraries.

Also on the to-do list is CD ripping and further video integration. A detailed roadmap lays out the direction of future enhancements, along with timelines that some have called ambitious given Songbird's already prolonged two-year build time.

In the meantime, we have our quibbles, most particularly the tendency to hog resources. Songbird was slow to launch and sometimes slow to run. It wasn't enough of a problem to merit a serious complaint, at least not on our system, but it's certainly something to watch for.

Bottom line, we really like what Songbird has to offer. It surely has taken the developers a while to get to their first full-fleshed released, but perhaps that is just in the nature of open source. Collaborative efforts take time.

To our thinking it has been worth the wait and we will definitely be watching to see how things evolve as this versatile app begins to stake its claim in the marketplace.

Article courtesy of WinPlanet.

Tags: open source, Firefox, iPhone, Mozilla, songbird

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