Canonical announces Ubuntu One music streaming service

Ubuntu Linux logoCanonical is preparing to augment its Ubuntu One cloud synchronization service with a new music streaming feature that will enable users to stream songs to their mobile phone from their Ubuntu One cloud storage account. During the initial stages of beta testing, the streaming feature will offer compatibility with the MP3 file format and Android-based devices. Canonical plans to extend support to the iPhone and possibly other products at a later date.

The Ubuntu One service originally launched last year with cloud file storage capabilities and support for synchronizing the user's e-mail address book and notes. Canonical later added the Ubuntu One music store, which integrates into GNOME's Rhythmbox audio player. When the user purchases music from the store, the files are deployed directly into their Ubuntu One cloud storage space and are automatically propagated to all of the computers that the user has connected to Ubuntu One. The new music streaming feature complements the music store by giving the user mobile access to their music. It's worth noting that the streaming feature works with any MP3 that the user uploads to their Ubuntu One storage account, not just the songs that they have purchased from the Ubuntu One music store.

I did a hands-on test of the Android application, which is still at the beta stage of development. It has a simple but functional user interface that provided convenient access to my remote music library. After a short period of loading information about my music collection, the app was able to display a list of albums. The album art doesn't show up right away, but it does eventually load. When I started playing a song, it began streaming it from the Ubuntu One servers. Playback over my AT&T 3G connection was smooth with no interruptions. The application displays an item in the Android notification panel while it is playing, which makes it easy to get back to the application. In addition to being able to browse albums, the program also has a built-in search feature that makes it easier to find a specific song. The music library interface has buttons that let you download songs to your phone for offline playback. A toggle on the application's main screen lets you switch to offline mode when you want to avoid data usage.

Room for improvement

The program is impressive, but it is still very new and has room for improvement. It doesn't support playlists yet, for example, and doesn't have a setting to make playback automatically pause when a call starts. I hope that Canonical will eventually address these limitations, and perhaps make it possible to synchronize playlists between Rhythmbox and the mobile application. I'd also like to see Canonical integrate the Ubuntu One music store directly into the streaming application so that I can buy music from the phone. When I asked Canonical product manager Matt Griffin if that capability is on the roadmap, he said that Canonical wants to enable mobile music purchases but hasn't yet formulated an implementation plan for the feature.

"We want to deliver some kind of a mobile experience for the music store but haven't planned how or when we're going to do it yet," he told us. "Obvious options are mobile browser-based or native app. It's a matter of seeing how it stacks up against other ideas that help people do more with their personal clouds."

The Ubuntu One streaming service is partly based on Subsonic, a popular, open-source music streaming platform. Canonical worked closely with Subsonic developer Sindre Mehus to build the Ubuntu software. Officially-supported Ubuntu One Music client applications will be available from the Android Market and the iPhone App store, but users can also access the service with other Subsonic-compatible streaming programs, such as the iSub iPhone application.

Canonical is looking for volunteers to help test the service. It will be free during the beta stage and for a trial period, but will only be available to paying Ubuntu One subscribers when it officially launches. For more details, you can refer to the Ubuntu Wiki.

Source: ars technica

Tags: mobile phones

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