Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Ubuntu One Music Store is Over-Engineered and Will Fail

The Music Store is probably one of the most awaited new features of Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid. An integrated music store is something that many people have been waiting for for years. As the details come out, though, it's obvious that the store isn't going to work out as implemented. I'll cover the main points, but if you want the fine details, you'll need to read Getting Ready for Ubuntu One Music Store Beta.

Let's look at the process you need to follow to buy music, shall we?

  1. Register for an Ubuntu One account if you don't already have one.
  2. Confirm your e-mail address.
  3. Enable file-sync in Ubuntu One.
  4. Set up access to your computer for Ubuntu One.
  5. Open Rhythmbox.
  6. Go to the store and buy music.
  7. The music is sent directly to the Canonical servers.
  8. Wait for your music to be sync'ed to the Ubuntu One folder.
  9. It's been reported that Rhythmbox will automatically pick up the music from the Ubuntu One folder.
That process in itself is so long that few casual users will go through it. Think, though -- We still haven't touched on the problems with Ubuntu One storage capacity. Your music is sent to Canonical and is automatically sync'ed to all your computers, which is great, yes? Well, that's only great if my Ubuntu One account has room for the new music. What happens if it's full? Do I get an e-mail notification? Do I have to "clean out" my Ubuntu One account? It appears so, if you read the comments on the above linked article.

More importantly, I can't buy more than 2GB of music at a single time, less if my account already has files backed up.  Worse, the 7Digital site doesn't tell me the size of the download, so I can't be sure whether I have space in my account or not. Sure, I can guess that the 320kbps MP3s come out to a little over 200MB, but that means I've got room for nine albums without paying Canonical $10 per month for more storage. What if I want to spend 160 pounds and buy the top twenty albums? I guess I'll be doing that in three shifts.

Canonical needs to change something. Maybe it shouldn't count Music Store purchases against your Ubuntu One total.

It all would have been easier if the "Ubuntu One Music Store" were just a link that opened the 7Digital (or ) page with a referral link and customers downloaded what they wanted from there. Over-engineering at its finest.


  1. So let me see, you claim the music store will fail and you base this on an unofficial blog post where someone configured and used a beta version.
    You list nine steps when in reality there are only have to do the first four only once, the last three aren't steps at all since you don't have to do anything..
    You complain about missing/unwieldy features (e-mail notifications, clean out Ubuntu One when it's full,...) when we don't know what these features will be...based on the COMMENTS on an unofficial blog post...

    Wait and see.

  2. Steps 7 and 9 are probably BS on my part, but I wasn't sure when I wrote this whether RB would pick to music up or not, necessitating another step by copying to your library or importing (#9) and I wanted to make perfectly clear that you don't download the music (#7).

    Listen to the podcast (linked blog, about 18:00) where the blogger interviews the main Music Store dev. This interview supports the comments. It's stated that one of the (secondary) motivations for using U1 is to get people to fill up their Ubuntu One accounts and to start buying the larger ones. They also don't have an answer to the "full Ubuntu One account" question (~19:00). Note that there's not an implementation problem on a decision that's already been made: the devs aren't even sure how they're going to solve this problem.

    Indeed, wait and see. I'm still pessimistic.

  3. You do realise this is software and computers and stuff and as such can be updated, changed and improved over time. Think how different iTunes (and its store) is now compared to its first outings.

    Sure it won't be perfect but its seems "good enough" and very unlikely it "Will Fail".

    I'd really like to see a "complete the album" feature like iTunes but not needing to fire up iTunes in a virtual machine will make life easier.

  4. All of my mp3s are in 320kbps format, and they come out to around ~100-130mb/album, a far cry from 200. So if you plan to buy more than 2gb, (15-20 albums) at a time, then yes you will have trouble with your free 2gb Ubuntu One account.

    I don't know many people who buy 15-20 albums at a time, (or even 9 by your estimation) so not being able to fit today's purchase into your cloud storage isn't likely to be too much of an issue. Besides, the Ubuntu folks will have this all figured out.

    Perhaps they'll have a queue for you? You go in and buy 3000 albums, but it only downloads the first N, (N being the number that will fit in your cloud storage), and provides you with a list of albums that will be downloaded when room is available. Sort of like the Steam client for gamers, where you own licenses to things that may or may not be currently installed.

    Just a few musings.

  5. I sure _hope_ they get it figured out. That 2GB is an absolutely best-case scenario, where you aren't backing up anything at all and have moved all of your previously purchased music out of Ubuntu One. The interview in the linked blog above contains a statement from a beta tester that he had already gotten up to 750MB in a few days.

    When I wrote this post, there were no answers to these questions about over-full accounts. They didn't even have a good idea of how it would work, nor had they started to write a line of code. I'm not optimistic.


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