Open Source Songbird Drops Linux: A Sign Of Things To Come?

Almost everyone either knows about Linux or runs Linux. And most people have heard of iTunes and/or other music managers. So when an open source Mozilla based media manager/player is developed, it seems like a natural fit to be on Linux. In fact, in a lot of people’s views, the words “Open Source” and “Linux” naturally flow together.

However, Songbird is now abandoning its Linux product, and instead is focusing on the Windows and Mac versions only. Let me repeat that for you – the open source popular project Songbird is dropping Linux in favor of  stronger Windows and Mac development.

The Reasoning Behind The Move

According to Songbird developers Pioneers of The Inevitable (POTI Inc.), they have limited resources and need to put focus where it makes the most sense. In their words, as posted on the POTI blog:

After careful consideration, we’ve come to the painful conclusion that we should discontinue support for the Linux version of Songbird. Some of you may wonder how a company with deep roots in Open Source could drop Linux and we want you to know it isn’t without heartache. We have a small engineering team here at Songbird, and, more than ever, must stay very focused on a narrow set of priorities.

Even they’re surprised a company with “deep roots in Open Source could drop Linux”. But as a development effort they have to put the focus on what makes sense for them, and if they are going to be serious about the business at hand, hard decisions are sometimes required.

Sony Drops Linux Support on PS3

In another surprising move, Sony announced on March 28th that they would be pulling Linux support from its flagship gaming product, the Play Station 3 (PS3). One of the reasons cited was that the move would cut down on the pirating of movies. Another reason given was that it would save them the expense of maintaining the HyperVisor drivers through each firmware update. In a post Kutaragi Sony world, they no longer find it worthwhile.

Microsoft Drops Linux from Enterprise Search

To add to the Linux woes, Microsoft announced in February that it was dropping Linux from its Enterprise Search product. The releases for the first half of this year will continue to support Linux, but after that it will be removed from future products. Now, this doesn’t mean that it will stop working after that, but further development in future releases will be out. According to Bjorn Olstad, Fast CTO and Microsoft Distinguished Engineer,

Although I understand that focusing on Windows will be a hard change for some of our customers, I’m convinced that it’s the right thing to do because it will accelerate our rate of innovation

While this could be read that continuing to support Linux would act as a lead weight, holding them back from further innovation, instead it no doubt meant that it would allow them to use the manpower in better ways to advance development. But anyway you look at it, there is no worthwhile value add for them at this time to support Linux.

Making Sense of it All

While a team of analysts could look at the data and circumstances regarding the Linux drops and no doubt come to varying conclusions, I can spare that expense and instead offer my own insight. To put it in a nutshell, in tough times people are not so willing to work for free.

Support for desktop Linux from major releases has almost been an afterthought. Usually a product has a customer base (and turning a profit) before it is ported to the other OS. In today’s times, companies are looking hard at the bottom line, and they are apparently not seeing the returns in either financial or intellectual properties from the Linux world.

Volatile Market for Products?

Let’s look at the Linux market. Not only do we have a large contingency of users that are used to paying very little for their software, but by ratio to users it also has a very large population of tech savvy hackers that seem to believe that turning a profit for work delivered, is almost a sin. A few seem go out of their way to crack everything from movie downloads to software packages for merely bragging rights and to stick it to “the man”.

Well, maybe “the man” is striking back, as Sony has done with the PS3. And being a very capitalistic centered person, I can’t fault Sony or Microsoft for a decision that makes the best business sense for them. But for an open source effort like Songbird to drop Linux support and remain open source should be an item of concern to the Linux community.

While no doubt the biggest response from the Linux community will include a dismissal of Songbird as a capable product (Philips apparently has a different opinion), the time might be better spent looking at the circumstances for the move. Failure to do so may end up hurting the Linux movement long term, just when we will need alternatives the most.

  40 comments for “Open Source Songbird Drops Linux: A Sign Of Things To Come?

  1. informix
    April 7, 2010 at 12:49 am

    “A dismissal of Songbird as a capable product”

    “Sony Drops Linux Support on PS3”
    Never like Sony anyway.

    “Microsoft Drops Linux from Enterprise Search”
    Good riddance. Shoo, Micro$oft 😛

  2. KW
    April 9, 2010 at 6:11 am

    Who cares? Main reason not supporting linux anymore: Linux users not supporting Songbird. There are a brazilian other choices that are better in 1 way or another..

  3. April 9, 2010 at 6:11 am

    Could it not also be said that Linux could see a spike in users, because in a tough economy, people will be more interested in a free OS?

  4. April 9, 2010 at 6:15 am

    Greet informetion about Linux


  5. April 9, 2010 at 6:23 am

    Just lost a user here..and every other person I’ve ever heard of using Songbird.

  6. Raj
    April 9, 2010 at 7:15 am

    None of this are actually related.

    Yes, Songbird will not put any effort towards linux and I agree it is their choice. The great thing about Linux is that if songbird does not want to “play”, there are many alternatives that do.

    Sony dropping linux from console has nothing to do with linux itself. They dropped it because a hacker had came dangerouly (for sony) close to unlocking the features that sony did not allow. This would have mean full game playing ability within Linux and hoards of opensource games on PS3. Now Sony cannot allow that, can it? Again, nothing to do with linux.

    And MS dropping or refusing to support a competing product, is that a news? MS is build on crushing competition by any means necessary. And no body who uses linux on production servers relies on anything made by MS. Again, nothing to do with linux.

    Also, your argument about “People Willing to work for free” is not relevent today. You should actually do some reading and educate yourself – this days majority of linux code is written by Paid developers. Songbird itself is an example of it.

    I understand your fear of anything you do not understand. And with the IT moving away from Desktops, you should be afraid, very afraid. Linux is going no where, and if it hasnt already it comming to a phone, e-book reader, (washing machine maybe??) near you.

  7. April 9, 2010 at 8:08 am

    Plenty of neat players on linux already. Their loss I think, because linux users are more keen on reporting bugs and summiting patches imho.

  8. April 9, 2010 at 8:14 am

    Meh. I can already happily use Rhythmbox, Audacious, Amarok, VLC, MPlayer, xine, and Totem. Songbird took 15 seconds to start and had unnecessary features while some how also lacking the most basic features: Visualizations, video support, equalizer (for a long while), effects, etc. And everything has to be done through an add-on, each time you update you’ll have the same problems that Firefox has, incompatibly for a few weeks or months.

    Also, Microsoft dropped GNU/Linux from Enterprise Search because they don’t need to support the competing operating system, especially seeing as GNU/Linux is becoming more and more popular.

    I say to Sony (DRM, Rootkits, proprietary software), Microsoft (DRM, proprietary software, viruses, privacy violations, etc.), and Songbird, good riddance.

  9. John
    April 9, 2010 at 8:15 am

    The importance of this? Zero.

  10. Hugo
    April 9, 2010 at 8:40 am

    This is just FUD. Three isolated events does not make a trend. We have a tiny open source project focusing it’s resources to deliver a better product, a huge company closing down its already closed system a little further, likely in response to PS3 jail breaking efforts, and another huge company that stops supporting a competitor of its own product.

    Each of these has a different reason for what they’re doing, and while a team of analysts could no doubt extrapolate a trend from these disconnected events, a team of proper statisticians would on doubt come to the conclusion there’s really no correlation here. So again, that article title is just spreading FUD, no more.

    I certainly do not want to knock on songbird as a product, and the linux community certainly shouldn’t either. I’ve personally never used it, so I won’t be missing it as a linux product, but if you have been using songbird, the proper response here (in true open source spirit) is either: “Oh well, I’ll go use something else” (rythmbox, banshee, amarok, no shortage of alternatives, really), or :”I’d like to help maintain a linux version”

    I suspect that songbird is a small project and won’t be sorely missed in the linux community. It’s sad, yes, but we’re in a crisis. Shit happens, that doesn’t mean the whole community is going to hell.

  11. nabhoth
    April 9, 2010 at 8:52 am

    Hmmm agreed

    songbird – ouaaaa never used and never will
    sony and PS3 – considering all their products do suck this is even better than windows dropping linux from their search.

    what a waste of e-paper this article

  12. April 9, 2010 at 8:56 am

    I guess this just means Linux will be missing one POS application.

  13. Richard
    April 9, 2010 at 9:06 am

    haha, what is songbird? it is horrible on windows and i would not install it on any linux.

    Music On Console is better than Song-Tunes together/
    and iTunes is garbage for masses.
    M$ is a joke.

  14. Chal McCollough
    April 9, 2010 at 9:08 am

    I don’t think that by dropping their teams commitment to the Linux port, that future versions wont be ported to Linux by the open source community. That is one of the benefits of an open source community. Some Linux geek(s) is/are guaranteed to port major version updates to Linux so that they can use it. This is just a smart design strategy because modern software, once written, is usually platform independent. One just needs to rewrite the OS specific stuff. If your managing an open source project from a perspective of reaching as broad of an audience as possible, you need to focus on the platform specific stuff that the users you are trying to reach are using. This would provide a better, more stable, and more usable product that more people would be able to use and would still provide the same Linux support through community support. Why would they want to commit the resources of their paid engineering team to do remedial programming? That is what the community(i.e. some Linux geek(s)) is for. There is a Taoist concept for this called the Wu Wei, meaning “action through inaction.”

  15. darkrose
    April 9, 2010 at 9:21 am

    Songbird has already been forked, so we’ll likely just see it disappear as it’s fork (which supports Linux, Mac, and Windows) takes all or most of it’s users.

    As for Microsoft or Sony dropping Linux, this is about as surprising as McDonald’s dropping Burger King.

  16. Brim
    April 9, 2010 at 9:32 am

    Why bother so many better alternatives. I use Win and Ubuntu and in some cases I prefer the latter.

  17. April 9, 2010 at 11:28 am

    This article is really bias and full of FUD, there are other music managers out there, just because song bird drops linux support that doesn’t mean there are no more music managers out there. Second of all they dropped it because it seems they don’t have enough programmers on the team, so that’s a songbird problem.

    Linux isn’t falling off, its actually growing.

  18. Penguin
    April 9, 2010 at 11:31 am

    Komplett FUD with poor knowledge. Open Source doesn’t mean Free. Yet another idiot writer… sigh…

  19. April 9, 2010 at 11:32 am

    Sony dropped Linux support because it could be used for hacking (see some recent publicity on people trying to hack the PS3 hupervisor)

    Microsoft is trying to interoperate with Linux more and more (see MS backing of Novell’s Moonlight project [opensource Silverlight] for example)

    Supporting Linux (and UNIX in general [unless you stick to the POSIX subset]) btw is a real pain with all those distros, window managers and incompatibilities or totally different APIs between them

  20. casch
    April 9, 2010 at 11:37 am

    I think Linux dropped Sony,Microsoft and Mozilla due to lack of competence.

  21. Enter Name Here
    April 9, 2010 at 12:06 pm

    Raj has this quite correct, and this article is rubbish. Songbird dropping Linux support, eh, it happens, and it wasn’t quite up to snuff with its Windows and OS X brothers anyway. There are lots of alternatives for both Gnome and KDE-based environments. The Sony PS3 debacle is exactly because of Geohot hacking the device, opening the possibility for a softmod to play copied and/or imported games- hardly something that Sony wants if they want to maximize their revenue! As for Microsoft, they’ve never played well with Linux and the two are direct competitors. Doesn’t it make sense cripple the competition wherever possible?

  22. Louigi Verona
    April 9, 2010 at 1:38 pm

    You have given us examples of a couple of companies dropping support for linux. You do not mention dozens of companies that have added support for linux. So no, it is not a sign of things to come, quite the opposite.

    Also, you should read up on open source business model. If you imagine that Songbird dropped support for linux because they were working “for free”, then before offering insights to your readers you better get one first. At the moment your “insight” is not more than a superficial statement from someone who has even less than a passing knowledge of linux development and how it works.

    No offense meant. Do read up. Open source development is a serious thing and its support (as well as linux support) is only growing.

  23. April 9, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    It’s not something new, Songbird is a Power Hungry App and I hate that aspect especially its resources high consuming level, Amarok is much much better although it uses the KDE-Libs Core on Ubuntu since it’s Gnome based, you still can’t notice the different of running Kde Core Libs sid eby side with Gnome, it’s the bless of the powerful design mate.

    I had used Songbird once upon a time but not any more, thanks to the GNU Members participations offering alternative or original solutions, and this is the beauty of Linux, you can start an immature Application by night and if it’s attractive enough it will change to a Beast by Dawn due to the Community additions and Code Submission, so bring a real product and let the community value it, don’t try to impose anything on anyone dude!

    For M$, I hate it and I don’t care about it, I have succeeded in Removing its OS from a lot of PCs, We do free Ubuntu Installations for our Clients here, and from all my Family PCs as well, alongside tens of tools, Codecs, Plugins…etc

    For the PS3, I love it but Geohot promised that he’s going to keep hacking into any new PS3 version and I hope PS3 Hackers will bring us an x86 Solution for playing Sony’s Games on our Boxes 😀 instead of using the Sony MIPS based Firmware (OS).

    Who knows what the future hides but Linux is shipping with Laptops and Desktops now and it’s on the raise,so do your maths.

  24. John H
    April 9, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    This has less to do with Linux, than it does with the products.

    Songbird is a fairly overwrought media player that has quite a few faster, easier, cleaner analogs.(Banshee and Amarok being just two of a couple dozen). Personally I know of many who have tried Songbird, but few who have kept using it.

    MS search? I do this for a living and I didn’t know about it…but why would I? Why would I run a MS product on Linux? It doesn’t make sense.

    Incoherent and spotty article.

  25. April 9, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    It’s dropped cause nobody on Linux uses Songbird. It’s a real memory/performance hog.

    There are so good players as Amarok, Banshee, Exaile, etc…

  26. April 9, 2010 at 4:48 pm

    People not wanting to work for free has exactly no relevance whatsoever on songbird for linux or any OS – it is free software – NOBODY pays for it!@!

  27. April 9, 2010 at 5:14 pm

    WOW! Linux users are almost as defensive as Mac users :)~ I agree Linux is not going anywhere. They have a very stable server platform. Although, I do most of my development on a PC. I wouldn’t use anything other than Linux, to host my website.

  28. Bob
    April 9, 2010 at 6:04 pm

    “Open Source Songbird Drops Linux: A Sign Of Things To Come?”

    Sure is. Next Songbird will be dropping Mac, and finally Windows.

  29. Daniel
    April 9, 2010 at 6:20 pm

    It is a sign. I have been a huge Linux fan for years (more or less an Ubuntu fanboy), but recently even I see the writing on the well. Linux is way behind current trends. Just look at the next release of Ubuntu (10.04), it’s a very ‘antiquated’ looking operating system compared to Windows 7 and Mac OS. I was running Ubuntu 9.10 on my netbook for the last six months and recently switched to Windows 7 and it was a refreshing experience. Windows 7 actually (can’t believe I am saying this) runs faster than Ubuntu and the OS as a whole is modern (why does Linux feel so 1980s ?). Open Source is a problem in itself 1) To many branches of code 2) Projects often feel incomplete and unpolished. 3) Projects often die after a while. Also ever try programming on a Linux platform ? The tools are antiquated and try compiling your project for the 1000 different distros out there, a royal PIA. I still support Linux, but I think it’s best as an embedded device platform.

  30. KenP
    April 10, 2010 at 4:22 am

    I never used Songbird … found it too bloated and just another Firefox wannabe with gazillion add-ons except one to play the music really well 🙂

    Amarok is the one for me and will always be.

    If a company does not want to support Linux users, frankly, its their loss as linux has a significant, if small, userbase now.

  31. April 10, 2010 at 4:39 pm

    I’m fairly impressed that now NOBODY used Songbird and EVERYONE thought it was rubbish. The thing is that in the post made by the Songbird team, a lot of Linux users insulted and accused them of betrayal to the FLOSS principles in the comments. So…there were people enough to say Linux users actually used it AND liked it.

    Banshee? It crashes regularly, and the socket for online radio just dies; not yet mature enough to stand on it.

    Rhythmbox? it is already a dead project.

    Amarok? is awful.

    Exaile? cramped UI.

    Frankly, There is not a single Linux media player that can do the 3 basic things right:
    – music play(covers, lyrics, lists, etc.)
    – online radio play
    – podcast & feed play

    I, as an Ubuntu 9.10 user, just accepted it. Songbird was good, but also DIDN’T DO THE 3 BASIC THINGS WELL ENOUGH.

    I just hope someone can take this 3 ideas and create(or fix) a decent media player. So far, iTunes made it(whether we liked it or not) and seems to be than WMP is getting close too. Let’s be honest and fair about this.

    • Anonymous
      May 7, 2011 at 12:14 pm

      I like Rhythmbox (except the fact I cannot spell it without double-checking on Google). I use this on Linux. I’d just rediscovered Songbird after sifting through some downloads. Didn’t realize it had gone on Linux. Your right about Banshee though. And the fact Amarok is based on Qt makes it slow and horrible and doesn’t like gnome (or any other window manager) in any way shape of form.

  32. April 10, 2010 at 5:56 pm

    I hardly ever use Songbird. So this won’t affect me much. It’s sad that Linux support has been dropped. But it’s open source so it’s not as though this is the end of the road. Which is the greatest advantage open source has over closed source.

  33. seth
    April 13, 2010 at 6:03 pm

    this is not so sad for me. nor do i think it’s even a slight indication of what is to come. songbird is nearly identical in it’s features and capabilities as nearly a dozen other multimedia suites in the linux/open-source world. it’s loss is survived by so many other programs, that it won’t even be noticed when it’s gone.

    i mean there’s banshee, quod libet, rythmnbox…. other than being built on mozilla, songbird really isn’t unique in it’s market.

  34. wookie
    April 13, 2010 at 11:12 pm

    I’d say desktop Linux is dead, but truth be told, it was never alive. I wish people would stop beating that dead horse already.

  35. April 18, 2010 at 5:55 pm

    Linux’s creativity is not bounded by it getting support from any project/ company. That’s the fun part and one of the primary reasons of its longevity.

  36. Tensigh
    April 23, 2010 at 4:54 am

    With Songbird gone, now I’m down to a mere 853,341,987 media players available on Linux. It will be sorely missed.

  37. erxgli
    May 8, 2010 at 9:20 pm

    To me, Media Monkey is the best audio library management program ever made. It is sad that I am unable to use it with my operating system, but with Songbird’s wealth of add-ons I am able to get pretty close to Media Monkey’s level of perfection. There’s already MM for Windows. Stick to Mac and Linux, Songbird. You guys make it seem like there’s nothing special about it being built on Firefox, but with user-created add-ons, possibilities are endless.

  38. June 10, 2010 at 4:27 am

    for those who like this kind of interface, or are satisfied with what gnome provides, there’s rythmbox, for those who doesn’t or just use whatever comes with KDE, there’s amarok (versions 1.4.x is the best music manager to date, IMHO), also, there’s XMMS for those who like a winamp-like interface, and others.

    so, farewell shongbird. we hardly knew ya.

  39. A.S.
    August 26, 2010 at 12:05 pm

    Honestly, I can’t Imagen a single Linux Kernel hacker giving one flying COUGH about some music player or whether or not they gain or lose a little market share or weather or not people think there is a future in the “Linux Desktop” Look it’s great and all that people put Linux on there home desktop, It’s a great unix and it seems like a lot of organizations feel the same way. Good for them, I think it will serve them well. But you forget that it’s not like kernel hackers get a bonus when some group like the French police install Linux and a bunch of software on there computers. OK, sure you could argue that means more money for the company selling support packages for the distro and then maybe they will or maybe they will not donate some more to The Linux Foundation and then may Linus would or would not get paid some small drop more… I don’t think so… But it’s not like I am going to ever see a dime either way. But that’s just fine and dandy. Perhaps you have all forgotten but we are not really in this for the fast cars and fat checks. It’s a hobby, and unlike a major corporation, Linux will still be around and get hacked on even if twenty people use it in total or twenty million.

    Could a day come when nobody wants to hack on Linux, it is possible, yes, but don’t hold your breath waiting for it.

    On a loosely related aside, this “Something we know and love is dyeing, but we don’t really understand it and have no clue what we are talking about… Be Afraid!” article reminded me of the “desktop is dying” line in the media these days. I have no idea if it is true or not, but who cares. Hobbies who want a desktop will get a desktop and if the predictions of DOOM are true, a day may come when the open-source OS is the only OS for the desktop…. All twenty of them 🙂

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