Songbird Leaving Linux Behind

For many vendors, Linux support — if it exists at all — seems to be an afterthought. Skype, Adobe, certain video cards, and quite a few other proprietary offerings all come to mind as examples of second-class Linux support. As frustrating as those cases are, though, when the snub comes from another Open Source project, it's particularly disheartening.

One such snub came earlier this week from the Open Source Songbird media player. In a post to the company's blog on Friday, Engineering VP Georges Auberger announced that the player's Linux support will be discontinued, in order to "stay very focused on a narrow set of priorities." He described the decision as "one of the most painful decisions in the history of the company."

The move comes just weeks before the company is scheduled to release its much-anticipated new version, designated "NOFX". According to Auberger, some users began to notice the Linux version of the product had "fallen behind," leading to "heated, but healthy debate internally about how to prioritize the development hopper." The outcome of that debate, apparently, was that Linux users are "some of the most passionate, do some killer development, and always provide tremendous input as to whether we’re on the right path" — and also aparrently, that they're expendable.

Interestingly, the project describes itself as having "the vision of delivering a free and open media player that works with all modern web services, and across the newest generation of media players and smart phones." Indeed, its list of officially-supported devices includes a number of the most popular handsets — all of which run Linux. How the loss of Linux support will affect this vision — and support for these devices — remains to be seen.

Equally interesting is the timing of the move, which comes just three months after consumer electronics giant Philips inked a deal with the company to ship a private-label version of Songbird with its GoGear music players. Though surely a matter of coincidence, Philips Songbird is available for Windows and Mac — but not Linux.

Auberger's post includes much feather-ruffling about dedication to Linux — "we can’t stand to see our Linux product be anything less than outstanding." It also promises to graciously make available to the community a wholly untested and feature-deprived developer version which the company will be maintaining for use by its in-house developers who use Linux. The fact that even its own staff are being treated as fourth-rate users speaks volumes about just how narrow its priorities are.

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