Choice is good, right? Mac and PC users have many ways to browse the internet from Safari to Chrome to Firefox. We have many email choices, too, from Mail to Entourage to Thunderbird.
How about alternatives to iTunes? PC users have Windows Media Player. What do Mac users have to play and manage music. The choices are slim to almost none. Songbird tries to be the Firefox of Mac and PC music players. Instead, it’s busy, dark, experimental, but still free.
The Ubiquity Of iTunes
Apple’s true Trojan horse software is iTunes. With over 200-million users, iTunes is second only to Windows Media Player in usage.
iTunes is what most Mac users require to manage music, TV shows, downloadable movies, album art, and to sync with iPods and iPhones.
It’s also free. What’s not to like?
iTunes is relatively easy to use, loaded with features (some say to obese levels), and works pretty much the same, Mac or PC.
Still, choice is good. If you’re not into iTunes, what are your music playing choices for your Mac?
Enter The Songbird, Singing, Darkly
Managing music on your Mac is either iTunes or something else, and the main something else is Songbird, the free music player for Mac and Windows PC and Linux PCs.
Just like Firefox, Songbird aims to be the free alternative to what Mac and PC users use most to manage music. It’s different, cloaked in dark charcoal. It’s crude. Not all features work smoothly.
Setup is a breeze and the steps to import your music from iTunes are simple and straightforward. In Songbird you can also elect to install Last.fm, mashTape, SK Concerts, LyricMaster, and many other options not available in iTunes.
The Songbird player itself looks familiar, though decidedly dark. The media library and playlists are stored in the left column. Player controls are on top.
Other than dark, Songbird at first glance isn’t much different than iTunes, though synchronizing with you portable music player is a hit and miss proposition.
Adding songs to Songbird is just a few clicks using the Media Importer in Preferences. The Concerts tab lets you check out which performers are nearby, when, and where. mashTape lets you find YouTube videos. With the exception of a few and very different features, Songbird is the black sheep iTunes, circa 2002.
(click the images for a larger, pop up view)
What’s Not To Like About Free?
If there’s one thing I like better than choice, it’s a free choice, and that’s what Songbird is. Another choice. And free.
Already Songbird matches up nicely with a number of iPhone alternatives, including the Nokia N900 and Verizon’s new Motorola Droid, so synchronizing a music library is not just an iTunes event.
Other phones include the HTC Hero and the Palm Pre, as well as a few other Nokia models.
Songbird supports a number of portable media players, too, including SanDisk, Creative Zen, a Sony WalkMan X, and a few Philips models (in case you have an iPod phobia).
What else? If you’re into t-shirts, Songbird has cool black (naturally) t-shirts available. I don’t recall ever seeing an iTunes t-shirt, but the real problems for Songbird are leverage and traction. Why jump from iTunes to Songbird?
If you’re averse to iPods and just love to be different, rather than think different, the growing Songbird ecosystem might be attractive. Or not.