If you have been playing around much with the Alpha releases of Ubuntu Lucid Lynx you may have noticed something special that was announced some time ago is actually coming to fruition. Announced soon after the release of 9.10, the Ubuntu Music Store is a new addition to the Ubuntu Linux desktop and promises to extend the capabilities of the Linux desktop further than it has ever been.
Similar to Apples iTunes music store, the Ubuntu Music store will allow the user to purchase music right from their desktop - and do it from within a single application. That application? As of this writing it is Rhythmbox. This was no small feat as an entire web browser engine has to be engineered into Rhythmbox. But from the latest releases, it is happening.
I am currently using an updated version of the Ubuntu 10.4 Alpha release (now you can download the Beta-1 of 10.4 which I would recommend over the Alpha 3). If I fire up Rythmbox I immediately notice something new (see Figure 1). Take a look in the left pane. You will see the Ubuntu logo. If you click on that logo you immediately see the text "The Ubuntu One Music Store is coming soon!".
What does this mean?
First and foremost it means that Apple will no longer have one of the only integrated music stores. This is good for those of us who simply do not want to use iTunes or any of the Apple hardware (thanks to DRM). Now people will have a choice. Even better this most likely will mean that users will be able to add music from the Ubuntu One Music Store onto just about any device. You purchase a song from Ubuntu One and place that single song on every portable device you have. How nice is that?
But there are other implications that go deeper than this. If Ubuntu doesn't offer up that same webkit tool for other music players they are going to make some enemies. As of right now it is impossible to pin down one single multimedia player that rules Linux. Is it Banshee, Rhythmbox, Amarok? Who really knows. It would be smart of Ubuntu to integrate this same kit into the big three players so that all distributions and desktops can enjoy the same experience. After all, KDE fans don't necessarily want to install the GNOME libraries in order to run Rhythmbox. So it would be wise of Ubuntu to include all three.
This also means there is one less obstacle for the user to adopt Linux. I still know users who refuse to adopt Linux because of iTunes. This will no longer be an issue. Of course I don't think we will be seeing Ubuntu One Music Store gift cards in Target any time soon. This also brings up the issue of pricing. Apple recently changed their price levels for music (being strong-armed by the RIAA no doubt). How will the Ubuntu One Store compete? Will they follow the Amazon tactic or will they be in step with Apple? Following in the footsteps of Amazon will go a long way to catch and retain users.
The upcoming release of Ubuntu 10.4 should be a serious milestone for Linux. The inclusion of the Ubuntu One Music Store is big and will, I hope, help to bring new users over to Linux. But they will have to know about this major step forward. So help spread the word!
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.