Removing iTunes and going back to Winamp

I'm so done with iTunes. The restrictions and lack of interoperability with anything else non Apple was simply driving me nuts. The last straw for me was when I upgraded to iTunes7, Xbox media centre and iTunes 6 wouldn't talk to it any longer. I'm sorry but this is so wrong. And lets be honest, the only major difference in iTunes7 (if your not buying into their drm) is the cover art view. I couldn't give a crap about the ability to play downloaded films from the iTunes store.

Anyway, the reasons I moved to iTunes boil down to 2 things.

  • Zeroconf (bonjour) sharing
  • Advanced playlist management

Well both SongBird and Winamp support advanced playlist management. Actually the Winamp's media library has a custom query language where you can write queries well beyond the iTunes smart playlist feature. We're not quite talking SQL or Xpath but good enough for any purpose you care to throw at it. On the sharing front, Winamp just got winamp remote which I've not played with yet, but looks like you can control and stream winamp to any other winamp or browser window. This seems to work anywhere in the world
and although it doesn't use Zeroconf, sounds like a replacement for iTunes sharing.

Some other thoughts behind switching. Although AOL now own Winamp, they haven't restricted the plugins, skins etc which have been built. There are thousands of plugins which control every aspect of Winamp. The same is certainly not true of iTunes. I found myself a very nice plugin to map my global laptop multimedia keys to winamp's controls (who ever thought z to b would be a good idea, needs serious help), a bluetooth plugin which allows me to control winamp from my phone and in the lastest version of winamp
the ability to manage portable devices.

This feature alone is amazing, for example try managing a Creative Zen with iTunes. It just doesn't work because Apple wants you to buy a iPod not a Zen. My reply is, fine, then i'll stop using your software, Apple. Winamp now supports out of the box (latest version 5.3.2) The iPod, Creative devices, Playsforsure devices, USB devices and Activesync. The last two are the most exciting for myself. Now I can copy the lastest downloaded podcasts straight on to my SD card using Autofill or/and sync media with my mobile
phone. This is what I've been dying to do for a long time. Can I also point out iTunes miniplayer uses almost the same on screen real-estate as Winamp. And has more ability to connect to online services like Shoutcast and Pandora.

The point of all this is, Apple's innovation for iTunes has been mainly good for those who use the iTunes music store and a iPod device. I don't fit and will be deinstalling iTunes from all my computers from now on. Now if I can just get Winamp talking to the Xbox directly, i'll be completely set.

Oh you might have seen I mentioned Songbird. I love songbird but its not mature enough for general use. At some points while using it last week, it was using over 300meg of physical memory plus the smart playlist feature is incomplete. On the plus side the miniplayer is super slick using only the space of a toolbar (I found a winamp skin which is the same). I'll certainly keep an eye on it in the future but for now Winamp beats iTunes, Songbird and Windows Media Player.

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Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser.