Canonical Debuts Ubuntu One Music Store for the Web
Ubuntu’s top priority may be knocking Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) off its pedestal, but the Linux distribution — and the company backing it, Canonical — are increasingly following scripts from Apple‘s (NASDAQ: AAPL) playbook to achieve that goal. Most recently, Ubuntu developers introduced an updated version of the Ubuntu One Music Store. iTunes it is not, but it does its part to extend Canonical’s reach that much further beyond its core operating system product in the same way Apple did by diversifying into new channels. Here’s why this matters more than you might think.
The music store associated with the Ubuntu One file syncing service, of course, is nothing new. It has been around since the release of version 10.04 of Ubuntu more than two years ago. But whereas users traditionally had to fire up the Rhythmbox media player application to buy songs, as of this week they can also do the same directly from the browser of their favorite computing device.
That enhancement makes sense for several reasons. For starters, having to run an offline desktop application to buy media files that live in the cloud always seemed a little ironic for me. Now, while users can still access the store via Rhythmbox if they prefer, the whole process now also can start and end purely in the cloud. That just makes more sense.
And perhaps more importantly, you no longer even need an Ubuntu computer — or any Linux machine, for that matter — to access the music service. The Web version works equally well from a mobile browser as from a traditional PC. That small change, as I explain below, could signal much more momentous reconfigurations of Canonical’s business strategy down the road.
Canonical, Ubuntu and the Cloud
On its own, the expansion of the Ubuntu One Music Store into the browser is not a very big deal. It probably won’t change the lives of many people. But it does suggest some interesting new trends concerning Canonical’s strategies for remaining competitive in the era of the cloud.
By eliminating Ubuntu as a prerequisite for accessing the music service, Canonical has stepped back ever so slightly from the open source operating system that has been its core product for the last decade. True, the music service is still designed primarily for Ubuntu users, and to take full advantage of it you need an Ubuntu desktop. Nonetheless, users can now theoretically purchase music and have it delivered to their Ubuntu One data shares — for which Windows and mobile clients exist — without ever using Ubuntu itself.
That’s a big change. Previously, pretty much every initiative introduced by Canonical to generate revenue revolved around value-added services that depended on Ubuntu itself. That’s not the case with the new Ubuntu One Music Store.
Without a doubt, Canonical remains for the most part intensely focused on Ubuntu the operating system, which it is working to integrate into the cloud in various ways that include but are not limited to Ubuntu One services. But in the long run, there may come a day when Ubuntu as an operating system is no longer as important as Ubuntu the cloud ecosystem. A Web-based music store could be a tiny first step in that direction.