Open Source

Banshee's Amazon MP3 store support hits a snag

Amazon.com MP3 store integration has finally made its way into a Linux music player. But all is not rosy on the Banshee frontier. Read Jack Wallen's take on a possible move by Canonical that could harm this victory for the Linux desktop.

"I must have been asleep for days..." because out of nowhere the Banshee music player allows you to shop and purchase music downloads from the Amazon MP3 store. You might be thinking, "Ah, big deal", but you might want to rethink that. Let's look at it this way:

What other music player allows you to purchase music from two major distribution sites as well as connect to Last.fm, Internet archives, and miro? None that I know of. This makes the recent migration from Rhythmbox to Banshee (for the Ubuntu distribution) an understandable choice.

Since the Ubuntu One Music Store was integrated into Rhythmbox, I have been using that tool for all of my music purchases. It's been seamless, but not perfect. For example: There are times when music synchronization was quite slow. There was one occasion where  not all of the tracks from an album downloaded. Those problems have all been resolved as of today. The file syncing is much faster and my missing tracks magically appeared one day. But there is one thing that Ubuntu One does not have that Amazon does - the massive amounts of recordings. Yes Ubuntu One does have a wide variety of selections to choose from. The average user would be happy with what they have to offer. But for people with more eclectic (or wide-ranging tastes), very few can beat the selection offered by Amazon. And of course Amazon does do a better job with their categories (Ubuntu One is missing the Soundtrack category - how did that get by the designers at 7Digital?).

Amazon also has a few other tricks up its sleeve that Ubuntu One does not:

  • Free music giveaways.
  • Aggressive pricing.
  • Major marketing.
  • The Amazon brand.

This is all great news. But all is not perfectly rosy. Yes, Banshee has become the default music player in Ubuntu (which will be seen in release 11.04). But Canonical looks to be making a grab for the cash with this venture. From all Amazon sales, Canonical stated they wanted 75% of all revenue generated by the built-in connection to the Amazon MP3 store. This revenue was already being donated (from Banshee) to the GNOME Foundation. Although it's not a ton of money (just over $3,000 dollars was raised as of February 2011), from the perspective of the open source community, it's the principle that really matters.

Ubuntu seems to be making this cash grab out of fear that Amazon integration will cut into the Ubuntu One revenue - and with good reason. People are familiar with Amazon. Not so much Ubuntu One. If average users are given the choice between an integration with Amazon or Ubuntu One - they are going to choose Amazon. Not so average users will either go with what's cheapest, available, or lead with their conscience. As for myself...I will most likely start with Ubuntu One and, if I "still haven't found what I'm looking for" I'll move over to Amazon (who will most likely have what I want).

It's a shame that this development is making Canonical look bad. Few have done for Linux what Canonical has done. But recent decisions have started to work on the collective nerves of the Linux community. When Ubuntu 11.04 is released, it will be an interesting time. But what will come of this development? Will Ubuntu disable the Amazon support in Banshee (which can easily be re-enabled by users) or will they forget the ridiculous 75% figure and be a bit more reasonable? Only the next few months will reveal this master plan. In the meantime, I am going to continue doing my happy dance now that I no longer have to install that horrible Amazon MP3 downloader in order to purchase music from one of the largest retailers in the world.

"All this machinery making modern music" can only be a good sign for the Linux operating system. The more features and integration like this we have the better. But Canonical should probably rethink their stance on the 75% before they lose that integration altogether. If given the choice, users would likely go to Amazon...so it's in Canonical's best interest to play nicely.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

Editor's Picks