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AOL Making Media Player, Music Store 174

An anonymous reader writes "BetaNews is reporting that AOL Music is ramping up its efforts to release a new Media Player independent of the AOL client software, with a long-term goal of building its own music store. The company plans to bring AMP outside its "walled garden.""
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AOL Making Media Player, Music Store

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  • by fembots ( 753724 ) on Thursday December 09, 2004 @04:56PM (#11045980) Homepage
    AOL's Media Player = AMP, and they want to win, right? So there you go, Winamp!

    Don't get your hopes up just yet, the article is quick to mention that:

    "Surprisingly, AMP is not based on AOL's Winamp platform, only utilizing Winamp's "Unagi" playback engine. Instead, AMP is built atop the company's Communicator XUL user interface framework. Communicator was first unveiled in beta form two years ago and eventually evolved into Fanfare."

    However, AOL did say "its new Media Player is not a competing product and has different audience, as Winamp users are not likely AOL users."

    Is this the knockout punch for Winamp? What did Netcraft say?
    • What I want to know is, will this application be a small XUL program? or will we have to download the whole XUL kit.

      IE, can we just plug this into Mozilla and have it in the sidebar, or download a few hundred K worth of stuff? Or is every download a couple megs because of the XUL frameworks being included?

      Sounds like Visual Basic hell might start up again. If it is truly written in XUL, couldn't they easily port it to any platformw here XUL runs?
      • Hmm, keep in mind that they just decided to launch FireFox as "Netscape"... maybe they have something interesting planned.
        • by cmacb ( 547347 ) on Thursday December 09, 2004 @06:27PM (#11046781) Homepage Journal
          I just don't know what to make of AOL. So much potential, so little action. Why did they buy Netscape and then not make any use of it in their offerings? Why didn't they ever get into broadband? How could they let so many other companies pass them by in so many areas where they should have been a pioneer?

          I know they are hated by some for letting so many of the "unwashed" on the Internet so quickly, but I think they have done more good than harm in many respects. Yet lately almost everything they do seems like such an obvious mistake. Sounds like they are WAY late for the party on this one, but I wish them well anyway.

          I participated in a focus group thing done for them (we later found out) in which it was clear they were trying to think of a way to equalize themselves with the likes of Yahoo, MSN and Google in the various things that they do from portals to search engines. All catch-up stuff. So far no hints they are actually working on such a thing though. Now after all those lay-offs I have to wonder if anything can save this company. Will they throw tons of money into a new media player, abandon Winamp, and then in the end not put a product out at all? Nothing would surprise me. I wish them luck, which is apparently what they are looking for.
          • I know what you mean! Watching AOL is like watching a slow train wreck.

            For years one had to wonder, "How can a company based on dial-up service and in-house content survive in an age broadband and the unlimited content of the web?"

            Simple question, simple answer: they can't.

            For some years, while people were still coming online for the first time, AOL was signing up ever more dialup customers. But that age is over and they've still not switched tracks.

            Now it's the end of the line and the screeching and
      • Using XUL won't really help make a media player more portable. The hard parts of porting a media player are the sound output and the video display. XUL only helps with the front end. You'd still need to write ALSA and X11 video overlay code to get it to run on Linux.
        • If the player is properly written (and thats a big if), then all you need to do to compile it is tell it to use /dev/sound or /dev/dsp, whatever, and find some BSD licensed X11 video output code. Your decoder engines, file I/O, and GUI are done for you (for the most part).

          Wrap it up as an ELF binary, and there you go.
        • You'd still need to write ALSA and X11 video overlay code to get it to run on Linux.

          Why waste your time with ALSA? OpenAL is more cross-platform, for example, and does some neat stuff, too.
    • "What did Netcraft say?"

      AOL is Dying.

    • Interesting that they admit their users are idiots. heh.
    • by Cuthalion ( 65550 ) on Thursday December 09, 2004 @05:47PM (#11046432) Homepage
      I used to work for AOL on this product from 2002-2003*. I personally worked on 4 completely different implementations which all got scrapped for one reason or another (usual reason: internal politics). I laughed out loud when I saw 14 months of pain being condensed into a single sentence in this article.

      The AOL Media Player is targeted at their mainstream user base. Winamp is targeted at the technically savvy people. The Winamp user base typically is extremely sensitive to advertising and corporatism. Not trying to win over the winamp users to the AOL Media Player is a very good decision.

      * worst job ever
    • by abb3w ( 696381 )

      The obvious name for what AOL ultimately intends to go up against iTunes would be "meTu-nes".

    • only utilizing Winamp's "Unagi" playback engine"

      So it is based on Winamp. Winamp's engine will be playing back the sound. It'll just have a different interface. Just think of it as a very different winamp skin. :-)

    • Winamp was named after a popular command line based mp3 player for unix called "amp". There was also a macamp for a while aswell.

      AMP reference []

  • AOL (Score:3, Informative)

    by pete-classic ( 75983 ) <> on Thursday December 09, 2004 @04:56PM (#11045981) Homepage Journal
    ITunes . . .

    ME TOO!

  • Errr... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Realistic_Dragon ( 655151 ) on Thursday December 09, 2004 @04:56PM (#11045985) Homepage
    Why not cut out the middle man and just mail you CDs with music on them?
    • Assuming that they over-charge you for the music on there, even if you don't want the CD or even use AOL, this would go along with AOL's billing strategies very well indeed.
    • by Tackhead ( 54550 ) on Thursday December 09, 2004 @05:05PM (#11046078)
      > Why not cut out the middle man and just mail you CDs with music on them?

      Because every CD in the known universe has already had a free AOL account burned into it.

      Besides, who the hell's crazy enough to employ a business model based on distributing lossless copies of non-DRM-hobbled music files on 650-megabyte removable media? :)

    • Because the CDs would probably consist of nothing but zydeco and klezmer music -- with a special interlude by the amateur bagpipe band!
      • Because the CDs would probably consist of nothing but zydeco and klezmer music -- with a special interlude by the amateur bagpipe band!

        I was in New Orleans this past weekend and got a chance to experience zydeco music first-hand. It was pretty good, actually, in a less-culturally-refined-than-NASCAR kind of way.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I don't.
  • by Anita Coney ( 648748 ) on Thursday December 09, 2004 @04:57PM (#11045996) Homepage
    On the forefront of new technology and not just jumping on someone else's bandwagon.

  • Interesting... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by daveschroeder ( 516195 ) * on Thursday December 09, 2004 @04:57PM (#11045998)
    Not surprising, but interesting as AOL already has several arrangements with Apple to allow AOL Music, AOL accounts, etc., interoperate with the iTunes Music Store:

    Apple and America Online Announce Online Music Alliance []

    AOL Members Now Have Instant Access to Apple's iTunes Music Store []

    iTunes Music Store AOL account signin []

  • If I remember correctly, doesn't AOL own WinAmp?Could this be why they recently let go of most of the WinAmp progammers? So that they could take what they already have and turn it into their own with some extras thrown in?
  • Winamp (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Folmer ( 827037 ) * on Thursday December 09, 2004 @04:58PM (#11046008)
    Even though they write:
    AOL says its new Media Player is not a competing product and has different audience, as Winamp users are not likely AOL users.
    I really cant see why they shouldnt use winamp instead, and bless the aol users with a good player..
    ( I havent had any first hand experience with aol software, but the horror stories dont make me want to try it out...)
  • by eeg3 ( 785382 ) on Thursday December 09, 2004 @05:00PM (#11046033) Homepage
    iTunes already has most of the market share, and AOL certainly isn't a very popular name among many computer users. People that use AOL will probably be semi-interested, but with AOL's trouble... that might not be very many people. Non-AOL users will likely choose iTunes over it, without much thought.

    With a little luck, they might just break even.
  • ...promises of 1048 free hours of Yanni in my mailbox, encased in a tin, sent to me every other week.
  • AOL-Time-Warner owns a huge part of the music recording industry. The software is just a means to an end: To make money selling music.
  • Is it my imagination, or are there many many companies these days trying to be the one resource for everything in their field? I suppose technology companies do this especially, but to my mind there are a lot of places that are trying to be everything to everyone.

    I suppose you can liken it to what many car companies are doing. They sell vehicles across all types and price ranges, even if it's not something they are good at. They do not leave even a tiny gap in their product offerings so that it's physi
    • Don't forget restaurants. You can go to a seafood restaraunt and get steak, and vice versa.

      But I'd like to point out, the way the tech industry does it is different than a restauant. The restaurant is actually branching into other food genre's, whereas some of the tech industries just liscense and partner with other companies and brand it as their own.

      ISP's are very competitive in the US, and there is a huge push to add values and services to screw^H^H^H^H^H provide the customer more value, and thus rape^
  • AMP (Score:2, Interesting)

    My parents have been on AOL since v3.0 and are finally upgrading to cable (I can't stand returning from my college T1 line to dial-up). The media player came around before AOL bought Winamp, so that explains why it's separate. I just am curious about AOL's overall strategy with it breaking up into 4 separate companies, phasing out broadband, discontinuing Winamp, making its own browser (to compete with its own Netscape I guess), and now trying to push a standalone media player when the market for them is al

  • First, didn't they do something like buy nullsoft or at least winamp and kill it recently?

    I wish, really, really wish they or someone would create a robust plugin enabled medial player for OS X. It would be nice to use one player instead of 3 just to listen to music from time to time.
    • Slashdot recently had a story [] on Audion, which sounds like it might fit your needs. Its freely available from Panic here [].

      As a disclaimer, I don't use OSX, so I dunno how good this is, but it seems to be more robust than iTunes with some nice features.
      • Slashdot recently had a story on Audion, which sounds like it might fit your needs.

        Trust me, I've looked at everything that remotely returns a result from google about media players and OS X. I've downloaded and played with Audion. I don't remember what I didn't like about, and I went to run it to jog my memory, and I've deleted it.

        Thanks, but Audion doesn't cut it either.
  • So, in the finest tradition of AOL...

    "ME TOO!!!1!"

    Seriously, does anyone remember the days when AOL was actually a unique, innovative company as opposed to a punchline?
    • I remember first getting on the Internet 10 years ago in 1994 and AOL was a punchline then. They were innovative?
    • Companies are only as good as its best engineers, and yet top managers think engineers are dime a dozen like an accountant, so the bean counters do what they can do reduce costs and get subpar loosers who only program because its a job, not a passion and get subpar crud as result.

      Why is there a work position such as 'manager' that has no real format training/dicipline like engineering and yet command 2-3x the salary? In our real worl, the engineers should get the 80k, and the manager should be on 60k.
      • Companies are only as good as its best engineers, and yet top managers think engineers are dime a dozen like an accountant, so the bean counters do what they can do reduce costs and get subpar loosers who only program because its a job, not a passion and get subpar crud as result.

        Companies are only as good as their mission and vision is good.

        Chick-fil-a is probably one of the best fast food places ever. I'm basing this on personal preference, and the fact that its almost impossible to get food from one
      • And why do patent lawyers get 10000x the salaray of the managers who make 2-3x as much as the engineers?

        You know America puts out 7 lawyers to 1 engineer. What a messed up country.
    • Seriously, does anyone remember the days when AOL was actually a unique, innovative company as opposed to a punchline?

    • Seriously, does anyone remember the days when AOL was actually a unique, innovative company as opposed to a punchline?

      No. I got on the net in 94, and it was a joke then, too. The Endless September had already begun.

      And before then, wasn't it just another Compuserve or Prodigy?

    • Um...

      <scratches head>

      No, I'd have to say they've always been a punchline..
  • by HarveyBirdman ( 627248 ) on Thursday December 09, 2004 @05:08PM (#11046105) Journal
    ...zzzzzzzzzzzzzz- huh? Wha?


    Um... AOL... music service...


  • Walled garden? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by powerlinekid ( 442532 ) on Thursday December 09, 2004 @05:10PM (#11046119)
    Are these the same walls that prevent the AOL marketing department from getting their filthy little hands on winamp?

    Look what happened the last time someone slipped over the wall... *cough*Winamp 3*cough*.
    • Re:Walled garden? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Cuthalion ( 65550 )
      Winamp3 wasn't marketing driven at all. The problems with it are mostly the fault of an overambitious and poorly directed engineering team. Not that I think AOL would have directed them in a positive direction, but they definitely took a very hands-off approach to winamp.

      The value of Nullsoft to them is in the multimedia A/X controls and server components which AOL has integrated into their client, and which they use for the playback core in the AOL Media Player.
      • Sort of like how Sonique went from being a nice, decent music player to... Sonique 2 - which has been like, four years in the making? Good job Lycos!
        • Re:Walled garden? (Score:3, Informative)

          by Cuthalion ( 65550 )
          hah! I worked on Sonique 2, before working for AOL on the media player.

          Lycos lost the entire Sonique staff in mid 2001 through layoffs and subsequent quitting. At this point Sonique 2 was about 6 megs of nearly completely undocumented very complex code, with a number of subtle bugs and gotchas. So it's not a big surprise that when they hired a new guy or two to work on it a few months later he wasn't really able to make it ship-worthy on short order.

          The original source of Sonique 2's problem though,
          • Too bad - you guys had a fantastic media player - I knew a lot of people who were using it.

            Hope you get modded up - that was neet to know... Seen the beta? Looks like they might actually have a media player in the next six months ;)

            This thing's taken almost as long as the phantom console lol...
            • Re:Walled garden? (Score:2, Informative)

              by Cuthalion ( 65550 )
              The last beta was realased over six months ago. I guess they could at this point say "2.0" at any day, but I don't see it improving much over the beta, which is only minimally different from the alphas.
  • Go AOL! (Score:3, Funny)

    by GillBates0 ( 664202 ) on Thursday December 09, 2004 @05:14PM (#11046155) Homepage Journal
    I'm sure the AOL MusicStore (TM) will change our lives for the better, as AOL's Internet (TM) did. They will surely give iTunes a run for their money with their groundbreaking TopSpeed (TM) [] technology and their superior Internet. I sure hope they include my favorite Super Buddy (TM) [] technology and their priceless CD offers in their store, though.

    I, for one, do want a better Internet with cool technologies like automatic Email virus protection, *free* web popup blocking, full parental controls, and *free* SuperBuddy(TM) icons and am sure all of you do too! Yay AOL!

  • this will certainly do it.
  • by ShatteredDream ( 636520 ) on Thursday December 09, 2004 @05:17PM (#11046178) Homepage
    Time Warner owns AOL. The other members of the big five would be dumb as hell to support this by opening their catalogs up to it. If anything, it would be an incentive to help the iTMS defeat AOL because every song that the AOL Music Store sells for them would also go into helping a competitor, Time Warner.
    • The other members of the big five would be dumb as hell to support this by opening their catalogs up to it.

      "conspiracy in restraint of trade?" I thought you could.

      Of course, there's the question of whether the Bush administration Justice Department can, but that's likely blatant enough to get even their attention. Folk will probably open catalogs to AOL's music store, perhpas a little reluctantly, and probably not for any less than they charge iTunes.

  • AOL EXEC1: oh fuck, look the horse has bolted!!!
    AOL EXEC2: someone, anyone, shut the stable door!!

    HAPPY CUSTOMERS: too late, guys. next!
  • Demographic? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 09, 2004 @05:17PM (#11046185)
    I'm interested in precisely who is AOL's targeted demographic for this product.

    The way I see it, the average totally incompetent user will just use MS Media Player given it's preinstalled, and probably does all they want (and anything it doesn't do probably won't occur to them anyway).

    Then you have the more competent, slightly smarter (not that smart, still using Windows remember *cough*) user, who while looking for alternative is likely to dismiss AOL's offering simply because it's, well, made by AOL, who don't have a particularly cool aura about them. Even when their aren't good alternates around, I'd imagine even these users are more likely to stick with Media Player than migrate to AOL's You're-A-Fucking-Retard-Let-Me-Hold-Your-Hand-Whil e-People-Laugh-At-Us-Player, or they might go for WinAmp, which despite being deprecated is still popular (yes, it's owned by AOL, but I think it's still tagged NULLSOFT, which sounds better AOL/NULLSOFT? That's a rhetorical question).

    The only remaining demographic is incompetent users, who choose AOL as their ISP, two problems: 1) This market is declining, especially given the fact they seem only to care about dial up users, who themselves are in rapid decline, 2) These users are the sort who use the interet at most about an hour or less a day, and are probably over 50. In short, they are the least likely people to be interested in purchasing music online.

    In summary: AOL Sucks! and most people who might potentially install their product are beginning to realise they suck. Anyone left, who might install it as a tie in to this particular ISP's crap-ware, is probably not going to use it, and even less likely to purchase music from it (which is the whole point from AOL's perspective).
    • I'm interested in precisely who is AOL's targeted demographic for this product

      Targeting the older demographic can make you serious money when 2/3 of the U.S. population is 35 and over, and would rather pay a buck for a one-click download of Norah Jones than muck around for hours with LimeWire or Kazaa.

  • Now thats kinda sad....
  • As most of AOL's most recent ideas, I'm sure the majority of Slashdotters will pretty much call this idea dead in the water, but it seems to me as one of AOL's better ideas in awhile. (Not hard)

    It's amazing it didn't happen earlier. I mean hell, Microsoft has an online music store--and Microsoft has proven it's pretty poor at recognizing good content (Slate excluded... MSNBC is basically an NBC venture content-wise).

    AOL actually sort of gets what the masses want for content and they want to be a content c
  • They'd leverage their huge media empire and undercut their competitors. After all, Sony is the only other competitor that has their own media empire, and they're not really doing much with it (other than pushing their stupid ATRAC3 format). I imagine AOL would get a nice foothold in the industry if they managed to sell all Warner Music songs at, say, 80c each instead of the standard 99c. This might end up triggering a price war between everyone.

    Though, now that I'm looking, I can't find any actual listi
  • Oh yeah... Too little - TOO LATE!

    Should have partnered with Apple like HP did.
  • Will AOL release this to the general public or to just AOL customers. My hunch says it will be for everyone, but with some special deals for AOL customers. What can AOL bring to the table that nobody else can? I don't think anything. A name? Would anyone use the AOL service because they knew the AOL name? iTunes is certainly better known. Will this drive AOL business? Would anyone buy AOL to get the better deals they offer? Doubtful... So what is the Competitive advantage AOL can bring to the mix?
  • So AOL recently announced they were going to cut their broadband services. They also just laid off a whole slew of people. And now they're going to try their hand at a music store and a media player? I see a desperate, desperate company with no focus right now...
  • Why not develop Winamp further? Extend it so that it works with their music store ... God knows they could write a plugin to do that. And with the massive user base that Winamp has, they'd kill two (or three) birds with one stone. I probably wouldn't use said store ... but I dunno, working with Winamp just makes so much more sense to me.

    - They could push Winamp to their users ... a wider userbase for Winamp could only make it more profitable.
    - They could push the AOL Music Store to Winamp users, so t
  • Reuters just reported important business news from new and emerging market.

    Mr and Mrs Jones from Waukesha Wisconsin just confirmed that they won't be launching their Media Player and Online Music Service. Asked about the reasons of this difficult decisions Mr Jones told that he can't promise he won't start his own Online Music Service in the future but it is just impossible at the moment. Mrs Jones wasn't immediately available for the comment.


  • NullSoft founder and WinAMP creator Justin Frankel was rushed to the hospital today and treated for unspecified abdominal injuries incurred during a prolonged fit of laughter.

    Stay tuned for more on this story as it becomes available.

  • AOL is dumping broadband, right?

    Who's gonna buy music over a dial-up pipe?

  • Neato! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by erikharrison ( 633719 ) on Thursday December 09, 2004 @06:25PM (#11046760)
    Look, trash AOL all you want to (really, I enjoy it!), but this is built on two technologies - one is the playback engine in Winamp (which, as I recall, was a fork of a BSD licenced cross platform player) and XUL.

    That means that a major technology company is using XUL to build their apps. Is anyone putting this together with the previous announcment that there is a new Netscape - sure, it uses the IE rendering engine (triton) on IE specific sites, but thats embedded in an XUL interface!

    AOL is actually _using_ the technology it developed when it ran Mozilla. This could mean AMP and AOL come to Linux/*BSD/Haiku/Amiga whatever alternative OS supported by XUL, same as Moz already does. It's like XUL brings rich client application written using thing client technologies - which is a big win for both the developer and alternative OS crowds.

    I'm ecstatic to see XUL being made mainstream.
    • I believe that the IE component you are thinking of is called "Trident".

      Remember that to bring this media player to other platforms they'd also have to port Nullsoft's playback stuff, and Nullsoft isn't exactly famous for writing portable code.

  • This is the future of all "computers": proprietary data, with no "Save" function. Media objects will be encrypted, among other DRM, and will copy themselves only in owner-approved scenarios. Players won't "play"; small proprietary format decoders will be embedded in the object itself, and the installed, persistent player will include only GUI and other "safe" features.

    We might be dancing in the open-source streets with our accumulating troves of open software. But once the media giants like AOL, Microsoft,

If I had only known, I would have been a locksmith. -- Albert Einstein