Free Amarok music player extends olive branch to Palm Pre

Common sense software approach for struggling phone maker

Recent news that an Apple iTunes update has disabled support for Palm’s new Pre smartphone has spurred the open source Amarok music player to offer to work with the device for file synchronization.

Amarok is a popular music player for KDE and Linux, but it also runs on Windows and Mac OS X. It already syncs with portable music players, including the iPod.

Amarok developer Nikolaj Hald Nielsen posted a message on the official KDE blog predicting what would happen if Apple decided to block the Pre from using iTunes during a talk at this month’s Gran Canaria Desktop Summit in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria.

“Now, just over a week later, this is exactly what happened,” Nielsen wrote. “Unfortunately, this is just business as usual in the world of proprietary software. In the end, Palm will surely find a way around this, but in the meantime, the users are being held hostage.”

According to KDE, Apple’s move may hurt music sales as Pre owners stop buying from the iTunes store.

The KDE project has now offered Palm the option to work with the Amarok team to get the Windows and Mac versions of Amarok “polished” and ship it as the official synchronising client.

“This would yield many benefits for both parties. As far as Palm is concerned, by relying on iTunes for moving content to the Pre, they have made it clear that they do not consider the synchronisation client a differentiating feature of the device,” Nielsen wrote.

As far as its developers are concerned, by using a free and open source application like Amarok instead, Palm would get a synchronising client that runs on Windows, Mac, and, unlike iTunes, also on Linux and other Unix-like platforms.

Amarok developer Bart Cerneels has also written an open letter to Palm, including some technical details of what the company can do to ease file synchronisation woes.

Moreover, Amarok and KDE run on ARM-based netbooks not supported by Windows or Mac OS X.

Other benefits of collaborating with an open source project, according to KDE, include avoiding being at the “mercy” of a competitor, and cheaper than releasing its own cross-platform music player.

According to Nielsen, “none of this is specific to Amarok and the Palm Pre”.

“It is just an example of a collaboration that would make sense in many instances where a company is selling a hardware product and needs to bundle a supporting software solution.”

“As long as the company is not trying to market the software as a unique defining characteristic of the hardware product, bundling existing Free and Open Source software would make economic sense, but more importantly it would also benefit the customers as proprietary lockouts by a third-party (like the one Apple is currently attempting with iTunes) could not happen.”

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