Although it is not yet official, Ubuntu’s next release looks likely to include a music store service similar to Apple’s iTunes.
The first hint that Ubuntu developers were considering a music store came in September last year when Canonical chief Mark Shuttleworth announced plans for Lucid Lynx, the next version of Ubuntu. At the time Shuttleworth made vague references to an Amazon- and iTunes-like music store for the next release.
Since then the noise around an Ubuntu music store has grown into a coherent direction and a number of details suggest that the Ubuntu One Music Store is on track for possible inclusion in Lucid Lynx which is scheduled to be released in April this year.
The most obvious clue to the Ubuntu One Music Store is the wiki page outlining plans for the product. Among other details, the wiki explains the Ubuntu One Music Store objective as such:
“The Lucid music store project aims to deliver the ability to purchase music from within a desktop music player. The overriding requirement of the project is to minimise engineering effort. This will be achieved through the usage of off the shelf solutions with minimal modifications. Only changes classified as blockers will fall within scope of this project. No effort will be expended towards improving the user experience of the default off the shelf components.”
The name of the music store – Ubuntu One – comes from the fact that the music store will be linked to Ubuntu One, the online cloud storage service provided by Ubuntu. According to the specifications users will log into the music store using their existing Ubuntu One username.
Although the service will be linked to the Ubuntu One service users are expected to be able to use a number of existing desktop media players to access the store, including Rhythmbox and Banshee, as well as a Web-based interface. Already a Rhythmbox plugin for the Ubuntu One Music Store is listed in Ubuntu’s blueprints.
With plans clearly in place to roll out a music store for Ubuntu the obvious question is whether Canonical will create a brand new music store specifically for the Ubuntu One Music Store or choose to partner with an existing service.
On the one hand it doesn’t really make sense for Canonical to start from scratch with a new music store which is not core to its business. On the other hand, an integrated music store could win a lot of fans for Ubuntu.
Assuming that Canonical doesn’t build its own music store then it is safe to say that a likely partner will be Amazon, rather than Apple.
Apple has done everything it can over the years to thwart iTunes support for Linux, and each new iPod release appears to be designed to break compatibility with existing Linux iTunes connectors. With that history in mind Apple is an unlikely partner for Ubuntu.
Amazon, on the other hand, already offers a version of its MP3 downloader for most popular Linux flavours, including Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora and OpenSuse. This support could presumably be extended to incorporate an Ubuntu One Music Store. The one catch, however, is that the Amazon MP3 store is limited at this point to US customers.
Ubuntu’s Lucid Lynx will be released in April this year when questions around the Ubuntu One Music store will be clarified but for now it does appear that Ubuntu’s music plans are more than just speculation.
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