Canonical are making some interesting moves with respect to making their desktop Linux distribution, Ubuntu, more friendly to mainstream users. They now have a Dropbox like service called Ubuntu One. Of which, the short term goal is to sync users’ files and application settings, via the cloud, across all of their Ubuntu computers.
Further to this, it seems that Canonical clearly has aspirations to deliver DRM free music to desktop users. They have already given a vague outline of incorporating an ‘Ubuntu One Music Store’ into their default music player, RhythmBox. An alpha tester, “Popey”, of Ubuntu’s next desktop release, 10.04 “Lucid Lynx”, has already blogged that Canonical are likely to use 7digital as the back-end for this service (link). He has also blogged that RhythmBox has been prepared to both: feature the music store, and look for MP3 tracks stored on users’ UbuntuOne drive (link). The latter means that when a user buys music from the Ubuntu One Music Store, the MP3 files will be available to the user on any of his/her Ubuntu computers.
The final tantalising piece of the Puzzle is that another Ubuntu 10.04 alpha tester has reported that it is now possible to view tracks and playlists stored on his non-jailbroken iPhone.
If all of this comes to fruition, it is significant, and a bold play by Canonical. Even if the iPhone compatibility doesn’t work out, there are plenty of other mass-storage compliant music players out there, including mobile phones, that would sync with the U1 Music Store, just like Apple hardware does with iTunes.
It is also worth considering how Apple might react to the hardware compatibility. It really depends on what level of intellectual property needed to be encroached upon to make Ubuntu and the iPhone talk to each other. Although, we saw Apple employ counter measures against Palm last year, when their “Pre” smart phone was made to sync with iTunes. Finally, Apple is currently demonstrating more than ever that it is not at all gun shy when it comes to litigating (rather than innovating).