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Free as a Songbird

by David Sturtz

Proponents of open software have been bothered by iTunes for some time. It’s a very slick program, but it’s also very locked in to Apple’s Fair Play DRM and the iPod hardware. So far, the alternatives have been pretty few and far between. The aptly named open source developers, Pioneers of the Inevitable, may be about to change that.

I’ve been playing with Songbird tonight (thanks Joel) and I am impressed. It is a combination media player and web browser — think iTunes with Firefox inside. Doesn’t make sense at first, but as soon as you browse to an MP3 blog, or any other webpage with links to media files on it, Songbird pops up a playlist at the bottom of the screen making all of the files immediately accessible to listen to or add to your media library. It also organizes your podcasts, handles streaming media, and (allegedly) can sync files with your iPod.

It’s not quite ready for the masses (so far it’s been a little slow, and prone to odd behavior), but it’s only version 0.2, so there’s lots of room for perfection. Go check out the screencast demonstration, and (if you’re adventurous) try it out.

Is this the beginning of the end for iTunes’ lock on the digital download market? Comments are open.

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